She stood there . . . her shm body swaying in a perfect
rapture of admiration for her own beauty
By sax ROHMER
McKINLAY, STONE & MACKENZIE
PnnUd in the Untied States of Ammca
Published February, 1919
TALES OP ABtr TABIH
The Yashmak of Pearts
Thk Death-Ring of Snefebu
The Lady of the Lattice .
OmAB of iSPAHAJ. ....
Breath of Atjah ....
The Whispering Mumstt . »
Lord of the Jackals .
Lure of Souls ....
The Secret of Ismail .
Harun Pasha ....
In the Vat.t.ey of the Sorceress ,
Pomegranate Flower .
TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
TALES OF ABU TABAH
THE YASHMAK OP PEARLS
THE duhr, or noonday call to prayer, had just
sounded from the minarets of the Mosques of
Kalaun and En-Nasir, and I was idly noting
the negligible effect of the adan upon the occupants
of the neighboring shops — coppersmiths for the
most part — when suddenly my errant attention be-
A mendicant of unwholesome aspect crouched in
the shadow of the narrow gateway at the entrance
to the Suk es-Saigh, or gold and silver bazaar, hav-
ing his one serviceable eye fixed in a malevolent stare
upon something or someone immediately behind me.
It is part and parcel of my difficult profession to
subdue all impulses and to think before acting. I
sipped my coffee and selected a fresh cigarette from
the silver box upon the rug beside me. In this
interval I had decided that the one-eyed mendicant
cherished in his bosom an implacable and murderous
hatred for my genial friend, All Mohammed, the
2 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
dealer in antiques; that he was unaware of my
having divined his bloody secret ; and that if I would
profit by my ac<iidental discovery, I must continue
to feign complete ignorance of it.
Turning casually to Ali Mohammed, I was startled
to observe the expression upon his usually immobile
face: he was positively gray, and I thought I de-
tected a faint rattling sound, apparently produced
by his teeth; his eyes were set as if by hypnosis
upon the uncleanly figure huddled in the shadow of
the low gate.
**You are unwell, my friend,'' I said.
Ali Mohammed shook his head feebly, removed
his eyes by a palpable effort from the watcher in the
gateway, but almost instantly reverted again to that
fixed and terrified scrutiny.
**Not at all, Kernaby Pasha,'' he chattered; **not
in the least. ' '
He passed a hand rapidly over a brow wet with
perspiration, and moistened his lips, which were
correspondingly dry. I determined upon a diplo-
matic tour de force; I looked him squarely in the
**For some reason," I said distinctly, **you are
in deadly fear of the wall-eyed mendicant who is
sitting by the gate of the Suk es-Saigh, AK Mo-
hannned, my friend. ' '
I turned with assumed carelessness. The beggar
of murderous appearance had vanished, and Ali
Mohammed was slowly recovering his composure.
I knew that I must act quickly, or he would deny
THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 3
with the urbane mendacity of the Egyptian all
knowledge of the one-eyed one ; therefore —
'* Acquaint me with the reason of your appre-
hensions, ' ' I said, at the same time offering him one
of his own cigarettes; **it may be that I can assist
you. ' '
A moment he hesitated, glancing doubtfully in the
direction of the gate and back to my face; then —
**It is one of the people of Tir,'* he whispered,
bending close to my ear; **of the evil ginn who are
the creatures of Abu Tabah."
I was puzzled and expressed my doubt in words.
**Alas,'' replied Ali Mohammed, **the Imam Abu
Tabah is neither a man nor an official; he is a ma-
** Indeed I then you speak of one bearing the curi-
ous name of Abu Tabah, who is at once the holder of
a holy office and also one who has dealings with the
ginn and the Efreets, This is strange, Ali Moham-
med, my friend.''
'*It is strange and terrible," he whispered, **and I
fear that my path is beset with pitfalls and slopeth
down to desolation." He pronounced the Takhir,
**Alldliu akhar!" and uttered the words "Hadeed!
yd mashum''! (Iron! thou unlucky!), a potent in-
vocation, as the g inn's dread of that metal is well
known. ** There are things of which one may not
speak," he declared; **and this is one of them."
Sorely puzzled as I was by this most mysterious
happening, yet, because of the pious words of my
friend, I knew that the incident was closed so far as
i. TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
confidences were concerned; and I presently took
my departure, my mind filled with all sorts of odd
conjectures by which I sought to explain the matter.
I was used to the superstitions of that quarter where
almost every gate and every second street has its
guardian ginnee, but who and what was Abu Tabah?
An Imam, apparently, though to what mosque at-
tached Ali Mohammed had not mentioned. And why
did Ali Mohammed fear Abu Tabah?
So my thoughts ran, more or less ungoverned,
whilst I made my way through streets narrow and
tortuous in the direction of the Rondpoint du Muski
I saw no more of the wall-eyed mendicant ; but in a
court hard by the Mosque of el-Ashraf I found my-
self in the midst of a squabbling crowd of natives
surrounding someone whom I gathered, from the
direction of their downward glances, to be prone
upon the ground. Since the byways of the Suk el-
Attarin are little frequented by Europeans, at mid-
day, 1 thrust my way into the heart of the throng,
thinking that some stray patron of Messrs. Cook and
Son (Egypt, Ltd.) might possibly have got into
trouble or have been overcome by the heat.
Who or what lay at the heart of that gathering I
never learned. I was still some distance from the
centre of the disturbance when an evil-smelling sack
was whipped over my head and shoulders from
behind, a hand clapped upon my mouth and jaws;
and, lifted in muscular arms, I found myself being
borne inarticulate down stone steps, as I gathered
from the sound, into some cool cellar-like place.
THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS
In my capacity as Egyptian representative of
Messrs. Moses, Murphy & Co., of Birmingham, I
have sometimes found myself in awkward corners;
but in Cairo, whether the native or European quar-
ter, I had hitherto counted myself as safe as in Lon-
don and safer than in Paris. The unexpectedness of
the present outrage would have been sufficient to
take my breath away without the agency of the filthy
sack, which had apparently contained garlic at some
time and now contained my head.
I was deposited upon a stone-paved floor and my
wrists were neatly pinioned behind me by one of my
captors, whilst another hung on to my ankles. The
sack was raised from my body but not from my
face; and whilst a hand was kept firmly pressed
over the region of my mouth, nimble fingers turned
my pockets inside out. I assumed at first that I had
fallen into the clutches of some modern brethren of
the famous Forty, but when my purse, note-case,
pocket-book, and other belongings were returned to
me, I realized that something more underlay this at-
tempt than the mere activity of a gang of footpads.
At this conclusion I had just arrived when the
stinking sack was pulled off entirely and I found
myself sitting on the floor of a small and very dark
cellar. Beside me, holding the sack in his huge
hands, stood a pock-marked negro of most repulsive
appearance, and before me, his slim, ivory-colored
hands crossed and resting upon the head of an ebony
6 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
cane, was a man, apparently an Egyptian, whose ap-
pearance had something so strange about it that the
angry words which I had been prepared to utter died
upon my tongue and I sat staring mutely into the
face of my captor ; for I could not doubt that the out-
rage had been dictated by this man's will.
He was, then, a young man, probably under thirty,
with perfectly chiseled features and a slight black
moustache. He wore a black gihbeh, and a white tur-
ban, and broT^Ti shoes upon his small feet. His face
was that of an ascetic, nor had I ever seen more won-
derful and liquid eyes; in them reposed a world of
melancholy; yet his red lips were parted in a smile
tender as that of a mother. Inclining his head in a
gesture of gentle dignity, this man — ^^vhom I hated
at sight — addressed me in Arabic.
**I am desolated,^* he said, *^and there is no com-
fort in my heart because of that which has happened
to you by my orders. If it is possible for me to
recompense you by any means within my power,
command and you shall find a slave. ' '
He was poisonously suave. Beneath the placid
exterior, beneath the sugar-lipped utterances, in the
deeps of the gazelle-like eyes, was hid a cold and re-
morseless spirit for which the man's silken demeanor
was but a cloak. I hated him more and more. But
my trade — for I do not blush to own myself a trades-
man — has taught me caution. My ankles were free,
it is true, but my hands were still tied behind me and
over me towered the hideous bulk of the negro,
ffhis might be modem Cairo, and no doubt there were
THE YASHMAK OF PEAELS 7
British troops quartered at the Citadel and at the
Kasr en-Nil ; probably there was a native policeman,
a representative of twentieth-century law and order,
somewhere in the maze of streets surrounding me:
but, in the first place, I was at a physical disadvan-
tage, in the second place I had reasons for not desir-
ing unduly to intrude my affairs upon official notice,
and in the third place some hazy idea of what might
be behind all this business had begun to creep into
'*Have I the pleasure,'' I said, and electing to
speak, not in Arabic but ip English, **of addressing
the Imam Ahu TahdM"
I could have sworn that despite his amazing self-
control the man started slightly; but the lapse, if
lapse it were, was but momentary. He repeated the
dignified obeisance of the head — and answered me
in English as pure as my own.
**I am called Abu Tabah," he said; **and if I as-
sure you that my discourteous treatment was dic-
tated by a mistaken idea of duty, and if I offer you
this explanation as the only apology possible, will
you permit me to untie your hands and call an arabi-
yell to drive you to your hotel?"
* * No apology is necessary, ' ' I assured him. * * Had
I returned direct to Shepheard's I should have ar-
rived too early for luncheon ; and the odor of garlic,
which informed the sack that your zeal for duty
caused to be clapped upon my head, is one for which
I have a certain penchant H it does not amount to a
8 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
Abu Tabah smiled, inclined his head again, and
slightly raising the ebony cane indicated my pinioned
wrists, at the same time glancing at the negro. In a
trice I was unbound and once more upon my feet. I
looked at the dilapidated door which gave access to
the cellar, and I made a rapid mental calculation of
the approximate weight in pounds of the larg^
negro ; then I looked hard at Abu Tabah — who smil
ingly met my glance.
'*Any one of my servants,'' he said urbanely,
**who wait in the adjoining room, will order you an
When the card of Ali Mohamlned was brought to
me that evening, my thoughts instantly flew to the
wall-eyed mendicant of the Suk en-Nahhasin, and to
Abu Tabah, the sugar-lipped. I left the pleasant
company of the two charming American ladies with
whom I had been chatting on the terrace and joined
AH Mohammed in the lounge.
Without undue preamble he poured his tale of
woe into my sympathetic ears. He had been lured
away from his shop later that afternoon, and, in his
absence, someone had ransacked the place from floor
to roof. That night on his way to his abode, some^
where out Shubra direction I understood, he had
been attacked and searched, finally to reach his
house and to find there a holne in wild disorder.
*'I fear for my life,'' he whispered and glanced
about the lounge in blackest apprehension; **yet
THE YASHMAK OF PEAELS 9
where in all Cairo may I find an intermediary whom
I can trust? Suppose,'' he pursued, and dropped
his voice yet lower, **that a commission of ten per
cent — say, one hundred pounds, English — ^were to be
earned, should you care, Kemaby Pasha, to earn
I assured him that I should regard such a pro-
posal with the utmost affection.
**It would be necessary," he continued, **for yon
to disguise yourself as an aged woman and to visit
the harem of a certain wealthy Bey. I have a ring
which must be shown to the howwah at the gate of
the harem gardens upon which you would knock
three times slowly and then twice rapidly. You
would collect the thousand gineh agreed upon and
would deliver to a certain lady a sandalwood box,
the possession of which endangers my life and has
brought about me the hosts of Abu Tabah the magi-
cian. ' '
So the head of the cat was out of the bag at last.
But there was more to come and it was not a pro-
position to plunge at, as I immediately perceived;
and I parted from Ali Mohammed upon the prudent
understanding that I should acquaint him with my
decision on the morrow.
The terrace of Shepheard's was deserted, when,
having escorted my visitor to the door, he made his
way down into the Sharia Kamel Pasha. Two white-
robed figures who looked like hotel servants, and a
little nondescript group of natives, stood at the foot
of the steps. At the instant that doubt entered my
10 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
mind and too late to warn the worthy Ali Moham*
med, the group parted to give him passage; then
... a terrific scuffle was in progress and one of
the wealthiest merchants of the Muski was being
I ran down the steps, the carriage-despatcher and
some other officials, whom the disturbance had
aroused from their secret lairs, appearing almost
simultaneously. As I reached the street, out from
the feet of the wrestling throng, like a football from
a scrum, rolled a neat tarbush.
Automatically I stooped and picked it up. Its
weight surprised me. Then, glancing inside the tar-
hush, I perceived that a little oblong box, together
with a quaint signet ring, were ingeniously attached
to the cro^vn by means of silk threads tied around
the knot of the tassel. I glanced rapidly about me.
I, alone, had seen the cap roll out upon the pave-
A hard jerk, and I had the box and the ring free
in my hand. The tall carriage-despatcher, his fero-
cious efforts now seconded by a native policeman
who freely employed his cane upon the thinly-clad
persons of the group, had terminated the scuffle.
Right and left active figures darted, pursued for
some little distance by the policeman and the two
men from the hotel. There were no captures.
A very dusty and bemused Ali Mohammed, his
shaven skull robbing him of much of the dignity
which belonged to his tarbush, confronted me, rue-
fully dusting his garments.
THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 11
**Yonr tarbush, my friend," I said, restoring his
property to him with a bow.
One piercjng glance he cast into the interior,
* * Allah ! " he wailed—* ' Allah I I am robbed I
A sort of martyred resignation, a beatific peace,
crept over his features.
**To war against Abu Tabah is the act of a fool,'*
he declared. **To have obtained the Bey's money
would have been good, but to have obtained peace
is better I"
I awoke that night from a troubled sleep and from
fit dream wherein magnetic fingers caressed my fore-
head hypnotically. For a moment I could not believe
that I was truly awake ; the long ivory hand of my
dreams was still moving close before me with a sort
of slow fanning movement — and other, nimble,
fingers crept beneath my pillow I
Of my distaste for impulse I have already spoken,
and even now, with my mind not wholly under con-
trol, I profited by those years of self-imposed disci-
pline. Without fully opening my eyes, cautiously,
inch by inch, I moved my hand to that side of the bed
nearer to the wall, where there reposed a leather hol-
ster containing my pistol.
My finders closed over the butt of the weapon;
12 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
and in a flash I became wide awake . . . and had the
ring of the barrel within an inch of the smiling face
I sat up.
**Be good enough, my friend,*' I said, **to turn
on the center lamp. The switch, as you have prob-
ably noted, is immediately to the left of the door. ' '
Abu Tabah, straightening his figure and with-
drawing his hand from beneath my pillow, inclined
his picturesque head in grave salute and moved
stately in the direction indicated. The room was
flooded with yellow light. Its disorder was appal-
ling ; apparently no item of my gear had escaped at-
*^Pray take a seat,'* I said; *Hhis one close beside
me. ' *
Abu Tabah gravely accepted the invitation.
**This is the second occasion,'' I continued, **upon
which you have unwarrantably submitted me to a
peculiar form of outrage '*
**Not unwarrantably,'' replied Abu Tabah, his
speech suave and gentle ; *^but I fear I am too late !"
His words came as a beam of enlightenment. At
last I had the game in my hands did I but play my
cards with moderate cunning.
**You must pursue your inquiries in the harem of
the Bey," I said.
Abu Tabah shrugged his shoulders.
'^The house of Yussuf Bey has been watched," he
replied; ^'therefore my agents have failed me and
must be punished. "
THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 13
"They are guiltless. It was humanly impossible
to perceive my entrance to the house, '* I declared
Abu Tabah smiled into my face.
**So it was you who carried the sacred hurho of the
Seyyideh Nefiseh/^ he said; "and to-night Ali Mo-
hammed brought you the reward for your perilous
journey. ' '
"Your reasoning is sound," I replied, "and the ac-
curacy of your information remarkable. ' '
I had scored the first point in the game ; for I had
learned that the wonderful silken yashmak^ pearl
embroidered, which I had found in the sandalwood
box, was no less a curiosity than the face-veil of the
Seyyideh Nefiseh and must therefore be of truly
astounding antiquity and unique of its kind.
"The woman Shahmarah,'' continued my mid-
night visitor, the eerie light of fanaticism dawning
in his eyes, "who was once a dancing girl, and who
will ruin Yussuf Bey as she ruined Ghuri Pasha be-
fore him, must be for ever accursed and meet with
the fate of courtesans if she dare to wear the hurho
I had scored my second point ; I had learned that
the lady to whom Ali Mohammed would have had me
deliver the yashmak was named Shahmarah and was
evidently the favorite of the notorious Yussuf Bey.
The complacent self-satisfaction of Abu Tabah
amused me vastly, for he clearly entertained no
doubts respecting his efficiency as a searcher.
He was watching me now with his strange
14 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
hypnotic eyes, which had softened again, and his
fixed stare caused me a certain uneasiness. For a
captured thief, sitting covered by the pistol of his
captor, he was ridiculously composed.
**You have performed an immoral deed,** he said
sweetly, **and have pandered to the base desires of
a woman of poor repute. I offer you an opportunity
of performing a good deed — and of trebling your
This was as I would have it, and I nodded en-
** Unfold to me the thing that is in your mind,'* I
**I am a Moslem,** he said; '*and although Yils-
suf Bey is a dog of dogs, he is nevertheless a True
Believer — and I may not force my way into his
**He might return the veil if he knew that Shah-
marah had it,** I suggested ingenuously.
Abu Tabah shook his head.
** There are difficulties,** he replied, **and if the
theft is not to be proclaimed to the world, there is
no time to be lost. This is my proposal : Return to
the woman Shahmarah, and acquaint her with the
fact that the sacred veil has been traced to her abode
and her death decided upon by the Grand Mufti if it
be not given up. Force the merchant Ali Moham-
med to return the money received by him, using the
same threat — ^which will prove a talisman of power.
Return to the infidel woman the full amount; I will
make good your commission, to which, if you be sua
THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 15
eessful, I will add two hundred pounds."
I performed some rapid thinking.
**You must give me a little time to consider this
matter/' I said.
Abu Tabah graciously inclined his head.
**0n Tuesday next a company of holy men who
have journeyed hither from Ispahan, go to view
this relic ; you have therefore five days to act. ' *
**And if I decline!"
Abu Tabah shrugged his shoulders.
**The loss must be made known — ^it would be a
great scandal; the merchant Ali Mohammed, and
the woman, ShahmarMi, must be arrested — very un-
desirable ; you must be arrested — most undesirable ;
and your banking account will be poorer by three
hundred pounds. ' '
* * Frightfully undesirable, ' ' I declared. * ' But sup-
pose I strike the first blow and give you in charge of
the police here and now!"
*^You may try the experiment," he said.
I waved my hand in the direction of the door (I
had reasons for remaining in bed). '^Ma'saldma!
(Good-bye)," I said. ^* Don't stay to restore the
room to order. I shall expect you early in the morn-
ing. You will find the door of the hotel open any
time after eight and I can highly recommend it as
a mode of entrance."
Having saluted me with both hands, Abu Tabah
made his stately departure, leaving me much exer-
cised in mind as to how he proposed to account to
the howivab for his sudden appearance in the build-
16 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
ing. This, however, was no affair of mine, and,
first reclosing the window, I unfastened from around
my left ankle the sandalwood box and the ring which
I had bound there by a piece of tape — a device to
which I owed their preservation from the subtle
fingers of Abu Tabah. Furthermore, to their pres-
ence there I owed my having awakened when I did.
I am persuaded that the mysterious Egyptian's pas-
ses would have continued to keep me in a profound
Bleep had it uot been for the pain occasioned by the
pressure of the tape.
Opening the sandalwood box, and then the silver
one which it enclosed, I re-examined the really won-
derful specimen of embroidery whereof they formed
the reliquary. The hurko was of Tussur silk, its tex-
ture so fine that the whole veil, which was some four
feet long by two wide, might have been passsd
through the finger ring and would readily be con-
cealed in the palm of the hand.
It was of unusual form, having no forehead band,
more nearly resembling a yashmak than a true
burko, and was heavily embroidered with pearls of
varying sizes and purity, although none of them
were large. Its instrinsic value was considerable,
but in view of its history such a valuation must have
fallen far below the true one. When its loss became
known, I estimated that Messrs. Moses, Murphy &
Co. could readily dispose of three duplicates through
various channels to wealthy collectors whose en-
thusiasms were greater than their morality. The
eale to a museum, or to the lawful owners, of the
THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 17
original (known technically as **tlie model'") would
crown a sound commercial transaction.
Cock-crow that morning discovered me at the pri-
vate residence, in the Boulevard Clot-Bey, of one
Suleyman Levi, with whom I had had minor dealings
in the past
At nine o'clock on the following Monday night, an
old Egyptian woman, enveloped from head to foot
in a black tob and wearing a black crepe face-veil
boasting a hideous brass nose-piece, halted before a
doorway set in the wall guarding the great gardens
of the palace of Yussuf Bey. I was the imperson-
ator of this decrepit female. Abu Tabah, who thus
far had accompanied me, stepped into the dense
shadow of the opposite y^i^YL and was thereby swal-
I rapped three times slowly upon the doorway,
then twice rapidly. Almost at once a little wicket
therein flew open, and a bloated negro face showed
framed in the square aperture.
* * The messenger from Ali Mohammed of the Suk
en-Nahhasin," I said, in a croaky voice. ^^ Conduct
me to the Lady Shahmarah."
* * Show her seal, ' ' answered the eunuch, extending
through the opening a large, fat hand.
I gave him the ring so fortunately discovered in
the tarbush of my friend the merchant and the hand
was withdrawn. Within a colloquy took place ia
18 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
which a female voice took part. Then the door was
partly opened for my admittance — and I found my-
self in the gardens of the Bey.
In the moonlight it was a place of wonder, an en-
chanted demesne; but more like an Edmond Dulac
water-color than a real garden. The palace with its
magnificent muslirahiyeh windows, so poetically sym-
bolical of veiled women, guarded by several fine,
straight-limbed palm trees, spoke of the Old Cairo
which saw the birth of The Arabian Nights and which
so many of us imagine to have vanished with the
A girl completely muffled up in many-hued shawls
and scarves, so that her red-slippered feet and two
bright eyes heavily darkened with kohl were the only
two portions of her person visible, stood before me,
her figure seeming childish beside that of the gross
negro — ^whom I hated at sight because he reminded
me of the one whom I had encountered in Ab4
^'Follow me, quickly, mother, '* said the girL
**You'^ — pointing imperiously at the black man —
** remain here.''
I followed her in silence, noting that she pursued
a path which ran parallel with the wall and lay
wholly in its shadow. The gardens were fragrant
with the perfume of roses, and in the center was a
huge marble fountain surrounded by kiosks project-
ing into the water, tall acacias overshadowing them.
"We skirted two sides of the palace, its mushrahiyeh
[windows mysteriously lighted by the moon but show'
THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 19
ing no illumination from within. There we came to
the entrance to a kind of trellis-covered walk, mosaic
paved and patched delightfully with mystic light. It
terminated before a small but heavy and nail-stud-
ded door, of which my guide held the key.
Entering, whilst she held the door ajar, I found
myself in utter darkness, to be almost immediately
dispelled by the yellow gleam of a lamp which the
girl took from some niche, wherein, already lighted,
it had been concealed. Up a flight of bare wooden
stairs she conducted me, and opened a second prison-
like door at their head. Leaving the lamp upon the
top step, she pushed me gently forward into a small,
octagonal room, paneled in dark wood inlaid with
mother-o '-pearl and reminding me of the interior of
a magnified kursee or coffee table.
Rugs and carpets strewed the floor and the air was
heavy with the smell of musk, a perfume which I
detest, it having characterized the personality of a
certain Arab lady who sold me so marvelous a Dam-
ascus scimitar that I was utterly deceived by it
"antil too late.
Raising a heavy curtain draped in a door shaped
like an old-fashioned keyhole, and embellished with
an intricate mass of fretwork carving, my guide
went out, leaving me alone with my reflections. This
interval was very brief, however, and was termi-
nated by the reappearance of the girl, who this time
made her entrance through a second doorway
masked by the paneling. A faint musical splashing
sound greeted me through the opening; and when
20 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
my guide beckoned me to enter and I obeyed, I found
myself in a chamber of barbaric beauty and in the
presence of the celebrated Shahmarah.
The apartment, save for one end being wholly
occupied by a magnificent mushrahiyeh screen, was
walled with what looked like Verde Antico marble
or green serpentine. An ebony couch having feet
shaped as those of a leopard and enriched with
gleaming bronze, having the skins of leopards cast
across it, and, upon the skins, silken soft cushions
wrought in patterns of green and gold, stood upon
the mosaic floor at the head of three shallow steps
which descended to a pool where a fountain played,
softly musical; wherein lurked gleaming shapes of
silver and gold. Bright mats were strewn around,
and at one comer of the pool a huge silver mihkharaJi
sent up its pencilings of aromatic smoke.
Upon this couch Shahmarah reclined, and I
perceived immediately that her reputation for
beauty was richly deserved. There was something
leopardine in her pliant shape, which seemed to
harmonize with the fierce black and gold of the skins
upon which she was stretched ; she had the limbs of
a Naiad and the eyes of an Egyptian Circe. Upon
her head she wore a rahtah, or turban, of pure white,
secured and decorated in front by a brooch of
ancient Eg^^Dtian enamel-work probably fourteenth
dynasty, and for whcih I would gladly have given
her one hundred pounds. If I have forgotten what
else she wore it may be because my senses were in
somewhat of a turmoil as I stood before her in that
THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 21
opulent apartment — ^which I suddenly recognized,
and not 'v^dthout discomfiture, to be the meslakh of
the hammdm. I can only relate, then, that the image
left upon my mind was one of jewels and dusky
peach-like lovelinass. Jewels there were in a-
bundance, clasped about the warm curves of her arms
and overloading her fingers; she wore gold bands
thickly encrusted with gems about her ankles (the
slim ankles of a dancing girl) ; and a fiery ruby of
the true pigeon 's-blood color gleamed upon the first
toe of her left foot, the nails of which were highly
manicured and stained with henna.
Fixing her wonderful eyes upon me —
**You have brought the veil?*' she said.
'^The merchant Ali Mohammed ordered me to
convey to him the price agreed upon, jewel of
Egypt,'' I mumbled, **ere I yielded up this a poor
man's only treasure."
Shahmarah sat upright upon the couch. Her
delicate brows were drawn together in a frown, and
her eyes, rendered doubly luminous by the pigment
with which they were surrounded, glared fiercely at
me, whilst she stamped one bare foot upon a cushion
lying on the mosaic floor.
**The veil!" she cried imperiously. *'I will send
the merchant Ali Mohammed an order on the
treasury of the Bey."
*'0 moon of the Orient," I replied, **0 ravisher
iyf souls, I am but a poor ugly old wotnan basking
in the radiaiice of beauty and loveliness. Would
yon ruin one so old and feeble and helpless f I must
22 TALES OF SECBET EGYPT
have the price agreed upon; let it be counted into
this bag'' — and concealing my tell-tale hands as
much as possible, I bent humbly and placed a leather
wallet upon a little table beside her which bore
fruits, sweetmeats, and a long-necked gold flagon.
**When it is done, the yashmak of pearls, which only
thy dazzling perfection might dare to wear, shall bo
yielded up to thee, daughter of musk and amber-
There fell a short silence, wherein the fountain
musically plashed and Shahmarah shot little inquir-
ing glances laden with venom into the mists of my
black veil, and others which held a query over my
shoulder at her confidant.
*^I might have you cast into a dungeon beneath
this palace," she hissed at me, bending lithely
forward and extending a jeweled forefinger. **No
one would miss thee, mother of afflictions."
**In that event," I crooned quaveringly, **0 tree
of pearls, the veil could never be thine; for the
merchant Ali Mohammed, who awaits me at the
gate, refuses to deliver it up until the price agreed
upon has been placed in his hands."
*^He is a Jew, and a son of Jews, who eats without
washing ! a devourer of pork, and an unclean insect,"
She extended the jeweled hand towards the girl
who stood behind mo and who, having loosened her
wraps, proved to be a comely but shrewd-looking
Assyrian. **Let the money be counted into the bag,"
she ordered, 'Hhat we may be rid of the presence
THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 35
of this garrnlous and hideous old hag."
**0 fountain of justice," I exclaimed; **0 peerleas
fiouri, to behold whom is to swoon with delight
From a locked closet the Assyrian girl took a
wooden coffer, and before my gratified eyes began
to count out upon the little table notes and gold
until a pile lay there to have choked a miser with
emotion. (The ready-money transactions of the East
have always delighted me.) But, with the chinking
of the last piece of gold upon the pile —
** There is no more," said the girl. **It is one
hundred pounds short."
**It is more than enough!" cried Shahmarah. **I
mm ruined. Give me the veil and go."
**0 vision of paradise," I exclaimed in anguish,
*'the merchant Ali Mohammed would never consent.
In lieu of the remainder" — I pointed to the antique
enamel in her turban — **give me the brooch from
**0 sink of corruption!" was her response, her
whole body positively quivering with rage, *'it is
not for thy filthy claws. Here!" — she pulled a ring
containing a fair- sized emerald from one of her
fingers and tossed it contemptuously upon the pile
of money — *Hhou art more than repaid. The veil!
I turned to the girl who had counted out the gold.
**0 minor moon, whom even the glory of paradise
cannot dim," I said, **put the money in the wallet,
for my hands are old and infirm, and give it to me."
24 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
The Assyrian scooped the gold and notes into the
leather bag with the utmost unconcern, and as though
she had been shelling peas into a basket. The pro-
found disregard for wealth exhibited in the harem
of Yussuf . Bey was extraordinary ; and I mentally
endorsed the opinion expressed by Abu Tabah that
the ruin of the Bey was imminent.
Securing the heavy wallet to the girdle which I
wore beneath my veilings, I placed upon the table
where the money had lain a small silken packet.
*'Here is the veil/' I said; ^^for my story of the
merchant, Ali Mohammed, who had refused to yield
it up, was but a stratagem to test the generosity of
thy soul, as thy refusal to give me the price agreed
upon was but a subterfuge to test my honesty.*'
Heedless of the words, Shahmarah snatched up
the packet, tore o:ff the wrappings, and in a trice was
standing upright before me wearing the yashmak of
I think I had never seen a figure more barbarically
lovely than that of this soulless Egyptian so
* ^ My mirror, Safiyeh ! my mirror ! ' ' she cried.
And the girl placing a big silver mirror in he?
hand, she stood there looking into its surface, her
wonderful eyes swimming with ecstp.sy and her slim
body swaying in a perfect rapture of admiration for
her own beauty.
Suddenly she dropped the mirror upon the
cushions and threw wide her arms.
**Am I not the fairest woman in Egypt T ^ she
THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 25
(exclaimed. **I tread upon the hearts of men and
my power is above the power of kings !*'
Then a, subtle change crept over her features;
and ere I could utter the first of the honeyed compli-
ments ready upon my tongue —
**Send Amineh to warn Mahmud that the old
woman is about to depart," she directed her atten-
dant; and, turning to me: **Wait in the outer room.
Thy presence is loathsome to me, mother of
**I hear and obey,'' I replied, *^0 pomegranate
blossom'' — and, following the direction of her rigidly
extended finger, I shuffled back to the little octagonal
apartment and the masked door was slammed almost
upon my heels.
This room, which possessed no windows, was
solely illuminated by a silken-shaded lantern, but I
had not long to wait in that weird half-light ere my
conductress, again closely muffled in her shawls,
opened the door at the head of the steps and signed
to me to descend.
**Lead the way, my beautiful daughter," I said;
for I had no intention of submitting myself to the
risk of a dagger in the back.
She consented without demur, which served to
allay my suspicions somewhat, and in silence we
went down the uncarpeted stairs and out into the
trellis-covered walk. The shadow beneath the high
wall had deepened and widened since we had last
skirted the gardens, and I felt my way along with
my hand cautiously outstretched.
26 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
At a point within sight of the flower-grown arbor
beneath which I knew the gate to be concealed, my
**I must return, mother/' she said quickly.
"There is the gate, and Mahmud will open it for
** Farewell, O daughter of the willow branch," I
replied. **May Allah, the Great, the Compassionate,
be with thee, and may thou marry a prince of
Light of foot she sped away, and, my forebodings
coming to a sudden climax, I crept fonvard with
excessive caution, holding my clenched hand im-
mediately in front of my face — a device which ex^
perience of the hospitable manners of the East had
It was well that I did so. Within three spaces of
the gate a noose fell accurately over my head and
was drawn tight with a strangling jerk !
But that it also encircled my upraised arm, its
clasp must have terminated my wordly aft'airs.
My assailant had sprung upon me from behind;
and, in the fleeting instant between the fall of the
noose and its tightening, I turned about . . . and
thrust the nose of my Colt repeater (whi^h I grasped
in that protective upraised hand) fully into the
grinning mouth of the negro gate-keeper !
There was a rattle and gleam of falling ivory, for
several of the ho-jowah's teeth had been dislodged
by the steel barrel. Keeping the weapon firmly
thrust into the man's distended jaws, I circled
THE YASHMAK OF PEARLS 27
around him, whilst his hands relaxed their hold
upon the strangling-cord, and pushed him backward
in the direction of the door.
**Open thou black son of offal I" I said, '*or I
will blow thee a cavity as wide as thy blubber mouth
through the back of that fat and greasy neck ! This
was, no doubt, a stratagem of thy mistress to test
my fitness to be entrusted with large sums of
When, a few moments later, I stood in the lane
outside the gardens of Yussuf Bey, and felt with my
hand the fat wallet at my waist, I experienced a
thrill of professional satisfaction, for had I not suc-
cessfully negotiated a duplicate veil, embroidered
with imitation pearls which the excellent Suleyman
Levi by dint of four days of almost ceaseless toil
had made for mef . . .
From the shadows of the opposite wall Abu Tabah
stepped forth, stately.
* * Quick ! ' ' I said. * * I fear pursuit at any moment I
Is the arahtyeh waiting T'
**You have it?" he demanded, some faint sign of
human animation creeping over his impassive face.
**I have!" I replied. *'I will give it to you in
Side by side we passed down the deserted
thoroughfare to where, beside a solitary palm, a pair-
horse carriage was waiting. Appreciating some-
thing of my companion's natural impatience, I
pressed into his hand the famous sandalwood box
which once had reposed in the tarbush of Ali
28 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
Mohammed. The carriage rolled around a comer
and out into the lighted Sharia Mobadayan. Abu
Tabah opened the sandalwood box, and then, rever-
ently, the inner box of silver. Within shimmered the
pearls of the sacred hurko. He did not touch the
relic with his hands, but reclosed the boxes and con-
cealed the reliquary beneath his black robe. I heard
the crackle of notes; and a little packet surrounded
by a band of elastic was pressed into my hand.
** Three hundred pounds, English,^' said Abu
Tabah. *^One hundred pounds in recompense for
the commission you returned, and two hundred
pounds for the recovery of the relic. *'
I thrust the wad into the bag beneath my robe
containing the other spoils of the evening. A second
and even more grateful glow of professional joy
warmed my heart. For in the reliquary which I
had handed to Abu Tabah reposed the second pro-
duct of Suleyman Levi's scientific toils; his four
days' labor having resulted in the production of two
quite passable duplicates ; although neither were by
any means up to the standard of Messrs. Moses,
Murphy & Co.
Coming to the house wherein I had endued my
disguise, Abu Tabah left me to metamorphose myself
into a decently dressed Englishman suitable for ad-
mission to an hotel of international repute.
^^Liltdk sa^ida, Abu Tabah/' I said.
In the open doorway he turned.
"lAltak sa'ida, Kernaby Pasha," he replied, and
smiled upon me very sweetly.
THE YASHMAK OF PEAELS S9
It was after midniglit when I returned to Shep-
heard's, but I went straight to my room, and switch-
ing on the table-lamp, wrote a long letter to my
principals. Something seemed to have gone wrong
with the lock of my attache-case, and my good humor
was badly out of joint by the time that I succeeded
in opening it. From underneath a mass of business
correspondence I took out a large, sealed envelope,
which I enclosed with a letter in one yet larger, to
be registered to Messrs. Moses, Murphy & Co., Birm-
ingham, in the morning. I turned in utterly tired
but happy, to dream complacently of the smile of
Abu Tabah and of the party of holy men who had
journeyed from Ispahan.
Exactly a fortnight later the following registered
letter was handed to me as I was about to sit down
to lunch —
The Hon. Neville Kernaby.
Deab Mr. Nevh^le Kernaby —
We are returning herewith the silken veil whicK
you describe as **the authentic burko of the Seyyideh
Nefiseh, stolen from her shrine in the Tombs of the
Khalifs.'' Your statement that you can arrange
for its purchase at the cost of one thousand pounds
does not interest us, nor do we expect so high-
salaried an expert as yourself to send us palpable
80 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
and very inferior forgeries. We are manufacturers
of duplicates, not buyers of same.
(For Messrs. Moses, Murphy & Co.).
I was positively aghast. Tearing open the en-
closed package, I glared like a madman at the
yashmak which it contained. The silk, in comparison
■with that of which the real veil was compared, was
coarse as cocoanut matting; the embroidery was
crude; the pearls shrieked ** imitation ^ ' aloud! At
a glance I knew the thing for one of the pair made
by Suleyman Levi !
The truth crashed in upon my mind. Following
my visit to the harem of Yussuf Bey, I had bestowed
no more than a glance upon the envelope wherein,
early on the morning of the same day, I had lovingly
sealed the authentic veil ; and a full hour had elapsed
between the time of parting with the sugar-lipped
one and my return to my rooms at the hotel.
I understood, now, why the lock of my attache-
case had been out of order on that occasion . . .
and I comprehended the sweet smile of Abu Tabah I
THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU
THE orchestra had just ceased playing; and,
taking advantage of the lull in the music,
my companion leaned confidentially forward,
Bhooting suspicious glances all around him, although
there was nothing about the well-dressed after-
dinner throng filling Shepheard's that night to have
aroused misgiving in the mind of a cinema anar-
**I have a very big thing in view," he said, speak-
ing in a husky whisper. **I shall be one up on yon,
Kernaby, if I pull it off . ' '
He glanced sideways, in the manner of a panto-
mime brigand, at a party of New York tourists, our
immediate neighbors, and from them to an elderly
peer with whom I v/as slightly acquainted and who,
in addition to his being stone deaf, had never noticed
anything in his life, much less attempted so fatiguing
an operation as intrigue.
** Indeed," I commented; and rang the bell with
the purpose in view of ordering another cooling
True, I might be the Egyptian representative of a
Birmingham commercial enterprise, but I did not
32 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
gladly suffer the society of this individual, whose
only claim to my acquaintance lay in the fact that
he was in the employ of a rival house. My lack of
interest palpably disappointed him; but I thought
little of the man^s qualities as a connoisseur and- less
of his company. His name was Theo Bishop and I
fancy that his family was associated with the tanning
industry. I have since thought more kindly of poor
Bishop, but at the time of which I write nothing
could have pleased me better than his sudden disso-
Perhaps unconsciously I had allowed my boredom
to become rudely apparent; for Bishop slightly
turned his head aside, and —
**Right-o, Kernaby,'' he said; *^I know you think
I am an ass, so we will say no more about it.
Another cocktail T'
And now I became conscience-stricken; for
mingled with the disappointment in Bishop's tone
and manner was another note. Vaguely it occurred
to me that the man was yearning for sympathy of
some kind, that he was bursting to unbosom him-
self, and that the vanity of a successful rival was
by no means wholly responsible. I have since placed
that ambiguous note and recognized it for a note of
tragedy. But at the time I was deaf to its pleading.
We chatted then for some while longer on in-
different topics. Bishop being, as I have indicated, a
man difficult to offend ; when, having correspondence
to deal with, I retired to my own room. I suppose
I had been writing for about an hour, when a servant
THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 33
catae to annonnce a caller. Taking an ordinary
visiting-card from the brass salver, I read —
No title preceded tlie name, no address followed,
but I became aware of something very like a nervous
thrill as I stared at the name of my visitor. Per-
sonality is one of the profoundest mysteries of our
being. Of the person whose card I held in my hand
I knew little, practically nothing; his actions, if at
times irregular, had never been wantonly violent;
his manner was gentle as that of a mother to a baby
and his singular reputation among the natives I
thought I could afford to ignore; for the Egyptian,
like the Celt, with all his natural endowments, is
yet a child at heart. Therefore I cannot explain why,
sitting there in my room in Shepheard's Hotel, I
knew and recognized, at the name of Abu Tabah,
the touch of fear.
**I will see him downstairs, ' ' I said.
Then, as the servant was about to depart, recog-
nizing that I had made a concession to that strange
sentiment which the Imam Abu Tabah had some-
how inspired in me —
**No,'' I added; **show him up here to my room."
A few moments later the man returned again,
carrying the brass salver, upon which lay a sealed
envelope. I took it up in surprise, noting that it
was one belonging to the hotel, and, ere opening it —
''Where is my visitor!'' I said in Arabic.
34 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
**He regrets that he cannot stay,'* replied the
man ; * ^ but he sends you this letter. * '
Greatly mystified, I dismissed the servant and
tore open the envelope. Inside, upon a sheet of
hotel notepaper I found this remarkable message —
Kernaby Pasha —
There are reasons why I cannot stay to see you
personally, but I would have you believe that this
warning is dictated by nothing but friendship.
Grave peril threatens. It is associated with the
iiieroglyphic — •
If you would avert it, and if you value your life,
avoid all contact with anything bearing this figure.
Abu Tab ah.
The mystery deepened. There had been some-
thing incongruous about the modern European
visiting-card used by this representative of Islam,
this living illustration of the Arabian Nights; now,
his incomprehensible *^ warning" plunged me back
again into the mediaeval Orient to which he properly
THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 35
belonged. Yet I knew Abu Tabah, for all his
romantic aspect, to be eminently practical, and I
could not credit him with descending to the methods
As I studied the precise wording of the note, I
seemed to see the slim figure of its author before
me, black-robed, white-turbaned, and urbane, his
delicate ivory hands crossed and resting upon the
head of the ebony cane without which I had never
seen him. Almost, I succumbed to a sort of sub-
jective hallucination ; Abu Tabah became a veritable
presence, and the poetic beauty of his face struck
me anew, as, fixing upon me his eyes, which were
like the eyes of a gazelle, he spoke the strange
words cited above, in the pure and polished English
which he held at command, and described in the air,
with a long nervous forefinger, the queer device
which symbolized the Ancient Egyptian god, Set,
Of course, it was the aura of a powerful person-
ality, clinging even to the written message ; but there
was something about the impression made upon me
which argued for the writer's sincerity.
That Abu Tabah was some kind of agent, recog-
nized — at any rate unofficially — by the authorities,
I knew or shrewdly surmised; but the exact nature
of his activities, and how he reconciled them with
his religious duties, remained profoundly mys-
terious. The episode had rendered further work
impossible, and I descended to the terrace, with
no more defiinite object ip view than that of find-
36 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
ing a quiet comer where I might meditate in the
congenial society of my briar, and at the same time
seek inspiration from the ever-changing throng in
the Sharia Kamel Pasha.
I had scarcely set my foot upon the terrace, how-
ever, ere a hand was laid upon my arm. Turning
quickly I recognized, in the dusk, Hassan es-Sugra,
for many years a trusted employee of the British
His demeanor was at once excited and furtive,
and I recognized with something akin to amazement
that he, also, had a story to unfold. I mentally
catalogued this eventful evening *^the night of
Seated at a little table on the deserted balcony
(for the evening was very chilly) and directly facing
the shop of Philip, the dealer in Arab woodwork,
Hassan es-Sugra told his wonder tale; and as he
told it I knew that Fate had cast me, willy-nilly,
for a part in some comedy upon which the curtain
had already risen here in Cairo, and whereof the
second act should be played in perhaps the most
ancient setting which the hand of man has builded.
As the narrative unrolled itself before me, I per-
ceived wheels within wheels ; I was wholly absorbed,
yet half incredulous,
** . . . When the professor abandoned work on
the pyramid, Kernaby Pasha,'' he said, bending
eagerly forward and laying his muscular brown
hand upon my sleeve, *4t was not because there was
no more to learn there."
THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 37
**I am aware of this, Hassan," I interrupted,
**it was in order that they might carry on the work
at the Pyramid of lUahun, which resulted in a find
of jewelery ahnost unique in the annals of Egypt-
**I)o I not know all this!" exclaimed Hassan im-
patiently; *^and was not mine the hand that un-
covered the golden uraeus? But the work projected
at the Pyramid of Meydum was never completed,
and I can tell you why."
I stared at him through the gloom; for I had
already some idea respecting the truth of this matter.
**It was that the men, over two hundred of them,
refused to enter the passage again," he whispered
dramatically, *4t was because misfortune and
disaster visited more than one who had penetrated
to a certain place therein." He bent further for-
ward. **The Pyramid of Meydum is the home of a
powerful Efreet, Kernaby Pasha! But I who was
the last to leave it, know what is concealed there.
In a certain place, low down in the corner of the
King's Chamber, is a ring of gold, bearing a
cartouche. It is the royal ring of the Pharaoh who
built the pyramid."
He ceased, watching me intently. I did not doubt
Hassan's word, for I had always counted him a
man of integrity; but there was much that was
obscure and much that was mysterious in his story.
**"Why did you not bring it away?" I asked.
**I feared to touch it, Kernaby Pasha; it is an evil
talisman. Until to-day I have feared to speak of it."
88 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
Hassan extended his hands, palms upward.
**I am threatened with the loss of my house,'*
he said simply, *4f I do not find a certain sum of
money within a period of twelve days. ' '
I sat resting my chin on my hand and staring
into the face of Hassan es-Sugra. Could it be that
from superstitious motives such a treasure had
indeed been abandoned? Could it be that Fate had
delivered into my hands a relic so priceless as the
signet-ring of Sneferu, one of the earliest Memphite
Pharaohs? Since I had recently incurred the dis-
pleasure of my principals, Messrs. Moses, Murphy
& Co., of Birmingham, the mere anticipation of
such a **find'' was sufficient to raise my professional
enthusiasm to white heat, and in those few moments
of silence I had decided upon instant action.
''Meet me at Rikka Station, to-morrow morning
at nine o 'clock,'' I said, "and arrange for donkeys
to carry us to the pyramid.''
On my arrival at Rikka, and therefore at the
very outset of my inquiry, I met with what one
slightly prone to superstition might have regarded
as an unfortunate omen. A native funeral was pass-
ing out of the town amid the wailing of women and
the chanting by the Yemeneeyeh, of the Profession
of the Faith, with its queer monotonous cadences,
a performance which despite its familiarity in the
THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 39
Near East never failed to affect me unpleasantly.
By the token of the tarhush upon the bier, I knew
that this was a man who was being hurried to his
lonely resting-place on the fringe of the desert.
As the procession wound its way out across the
sands, I saw to the removal of my baggage and
joined Hassan es-Sugra, who awaited me by the
wooden barrier. I perceived immediately that
something was wrong with the man; he was pal-
pably laboring under the influence of some strong
excitement, and his dark eyes regarded me almost
fearfully. He was muttering to himself like one
suffering from an over-indulgence in HasJiish, and
I detected the words *' Allahu alchar!" (God is most
great) several times repeated.
**What ails you, Hassan, my friend?" I said;
and noting how his gaze persistently returned to
the melancholy procession wending its way towards
the little Moslem cemetery: — **Was the dead man
some relation of yours?''
* * No, no, Kernaby Pasha, ' ' he muttered gutturally,
and moistened his lips with his tongue; **I was
but slightly acquainted with him."
**Yet you are much disturbed."
**Not at all, Kernaby Pasha," he assured me;
**not in the slightest."
By which familiar formula I knew that Hassan:
es-Sugra would conceal from me the cause of his
distress, and therefore, since I had no appetite for
further mysteries, I determined to learn it from
40 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
''See to the loading of the donkey/' I directed
him — for three sleek little animals were standing
beside him, patiently awaiting the toil of the day.
Hassan setting about the task with a cheerful
alacrity obviously artificial, I approached the native
tstation master, with whom I was acquainted, and
put to him a number of questions respecting his
important functions — in which I was not even mildly
interested. But to the Oriental mind a direct in-
quiry is an affront, almost an insult; and to have
inquired bluntly the name of the deceased and the
manner of his death would have been the best way
to have learned nothing whatever about the matter.
Therefore having discussed in detail the slothful
incompetence of Arab ticket collectors and the lazy
condition and innate viciousness of Egyptian porters
as a class, I mentioned incidentally that I had ob-
served a funeral leaving Rikka.
The station master (who was bursting to talk
about this very matter, but who would have declined
on principle to do so had I definitely questioned
him) now unfolded to me the strange particulars
respecting the death of one, Ahmed Abdulla, who
had been a retired dragoman though some time
employed as an excavator.
''He rode out one night upon his white donkey,"
said my informant, "and no man knows whither
he went. But it is believed, Kernaby Pasha, that
it was to the Haram el-Kaddab'' (the False
Pyramid) — extending his hand to where, beyond
the belt of fertility, the tomb of Sneferu up-reared
THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 41
its three platforms from the fringe of the desert.
*'To enter the pyramid even in day time is to court
misfortune; to enter at night is to fall into the
hands of the powerful Efreet who dwells there.
His donkey returned without him, and therefore
search was made for Ahmed Ahdulla. He was found
the next day" — as^ain the long arm shot out towards
the desert — **dead upon the sands, near the foot of
I looked into the face of the speaker; beyond
doubt he was in deadly earnest.
''Why should Ahmed Abdulla have wanted to
visit such a place at night f I asked.
My acquaintance lowered his voice, muttered
"Sahdm Allah fee 'adoo ed—dm!" (May God trans-
fix the enemies of the religion) and touched his
forehead, his mouth, and his breast with the iron
ring which he wore.
''There is a great treasure concealed there,
Kemaby Pasha," he replied; "a treasure hidden
from the world in the days of Suleyman the Great,
sealed with his seal, and guarded by the servants
of Gann Ibn-Gann."
"So you think the guardian ginn killed Ahmed
The station master muttered invocations, and —
"There are things which may not be spoken of,"
he said; "but those who saw him dead say that
he was terrible to look upon. A great Welee, a man
of wisdom famed throughout Egypt, has been
summoned to avert the evil; for if the anger of
42 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
the ginn is aroused they may visit the most painful
and unfortunate penalties upon all Rikka. . . /'
Half an hour later I set out, having confidentially
informed the station master that I sought to obtain
a fine turquoise necklet which I knew to be in the
possession of the Sheikh of Meydum. Little did I
suspect how it was written that I should indeed
visit the house of the venerable Sheikh. Out through
the fields of young green corn, the palm groves and
the sycamore orchards I rode, Hassan plodding
silently behind me and leading the donkey who bore
the baggage. Curious eyes watched our passage,
from field, doorway, and sliaduf; but nothing of note
marked our journey save the tremendous heat of the
sun at noon, beneath which I knew myself a fool
I camped on the western side of the pyramid, but
w^ell clear of the marshes, which are the home of
countless wild-fowl. I had no idea how long it would
take me to extract the coveted ring from its hiding-
place (which Hassan had closely described to me) ;
and, remembering the speculative glances of the
villagers, I had no intention of exposing myself
against the face of the pyramid until dusk should
have come to cloak my operations.
Hassan es-Sugra, whose new taciturnity was re-
makable and whose behavior was dsitinguished by
an odd disquiet, set out with his gun to procure our
dinner, and I mounted the sandy slope on the south-
west of the pyramid, where from my cover behind
a mound of rubbish, I studied through my field-
THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 43
glasses the belt of vegetation marking the course of
the Nile. I could detect no sign of surveillance,
but in view of the fact that the smuggling of relics
out of Egypt is a punishable offence my caution was
dictated by wisdom.
We dined excellently, Hassan the Silent and I,
upon quail, tinned tomatoes, fresh dates, bread, and
Vichy- water (to which in my own case was added a
stiff three fingers of whisky).
When the newly risen moon cast an ebon shadow
of the Pyramid of Sneferu upon the carpet of the
sands, I made my way around the angle of the ancient
building towards the mound on the northern side
whereby one approaches the entrance. Three paces
from the shadow's edge, I paused, transfixed, be-
cause of that which confronted me.
Outlined against the moon-bright sky upon a ridge
of the desert behind and to the north of the great
structure, stood the motionless figure of a man !
For a moment I thought that my mind had con-
jured up this phantasmal watcher, that he was a
thing of moon-magic and not of flesh and blood.
But as I stood regarding him, he moved, seemed
to raise his head, then turned and disappeared be-
yond the crest.
How long I remained staring at the spot where
he had been I know not; but I was aroused from
my useless contemplation by the jingling of camel
bells. The sound came from behind me, stealing
sweetly through the stillness from a great distance.
I turned in a flash, whipped out my glasses and
44 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
searched the remote fringe of the Fayum. Stately
across the jeweled curtain of the night moved a
caravan, blackly marked against that wondrous back-
ground. Three walking figures I counted, three
laden donkeys, and two camels. Upon the first of
the camols a man was mounted, upon the second
was a shibreeyeh, a sort of covered litter, which I
knew must conceal a woman. The caravan passed
out of sight into the palm grove which conceals the
village of Meydum.
I returned my glasses to their case, and stood for
some moments deep in reflection; then I descended
the slope, to the tiny encampment where I had left
Hassan es-Sugra. He was nowhere to be seen ; andi
having waited some ten minutes I grew impatient,
and raising my voice :
*^ Hassan!'^ I cried; ** Hassan es-Sugra I"
No answer greeted me, although in the desert
stillness the call must have been audible for miles.
A second and a third time I called his name . . .
and the only reply was the shrill note of a pyramid
bat that swooped low above my head; the vast soli-
tude of the sands swallowed up my voice and the
walls of the Tomb of Sneferu mocked me with their
echo, crying eerily:
** Hassan! Hassan es-Sugra. . . . Hassan! . . ."
This mysterious episode affected me unpleasantly,
but did not divert me from my purpose: I sue-
THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 45
ceeded in casting out certain demons of superstition
who had sought to lay hold upon me ; and a prolonged
scrutiny of the surrounding desert somewhat allayed
toy fears of human surveillance. For my visit to
the chamber in the heart of the ancient building I
had arrayed myself in rubber-soled shoes, an old
pair of drill trousers, and a pyjama jacket. A Colt
repeater was in my hip pocket, and, in addition to
several instruments which I thought might be useful
in extracting the ring from its setting, I carried a
powerful electric torch.
Seated on the threshold of the entrance, fifty feet
above the desert level, I cast a final glance back-
ward towards the Nile valley, then, the lighted torch
carried in my jacket pocket, I commenced the descent
of the narrow, sloping passage. Periodically, when
some cranny between the blocks offered a foothold,
I checked my progress, and inspected the steep path
below for snake tracks.
Some two hundred and forty feet of labored
descent discovered me in a sort of shallow cavern
little more than a yard high and partly hewn out
of the living rock which formed the foundation of
the pyramid. In this place I found the heat to be
almost insufferable, and the smell of remote
mortality which assailed my nostrils from the
sand-strewn floor threatened to choke me. For five
minutes or more I lay there, bathed in perspiration,
my nerves at high tension, listening for the slightest
sound within or without. I cannot pretend that I
was entirely master of myself. The stuff that fear
46 TALES OP SECRET EGYPT
is made of seemed to rise from the ancient dust ; and
I had little relish for the second part of my journey,
which lay through a long horizontal passage rarely
exceeding fourteen inches in height. The mere
memory of that final crawl of forty feet or so is
sufficient to cause me to perspire profusely; there-
fore let it suffice that I reached the end of the second
passage, and breathing with difficulty the deathful,
poisonous atmosphere of the place, found myself at
the foot of the rugged shaft which gives access to the
King's Chamber. Resting my torch upon a con-
venient ledge, I climbed up, and knew myself to be
in one of the oldest chambers fashioned by human
The journey had been most exhausing, but, allow-
ing myseli only a few moments' rest, I crossed to
the eastern corner of the place and directed a ray
of light upon the cre\'ice which, from Hassan's de-
scription, I believed to conceal the ring. His account
having been detailed, I experienced little difficulty
in finding the cavity; but in the very moment of
success the light of the torch grew dim . . . and I
recognized with a mingling of chagrin and fear that
it was burnt out and that I had no means of re-
Ere the light expired, I had time to realize two
things: that the cavity was empty . . . and that
someone or something was approaching the foot
of the shaft along the horizontal passage below !
Strictly though I have schooled my emotions, my
heart was beating in a most uncomfortable fashion*
THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 47
as, crouching near the edge of the shaft, I watched
the red glow fade from the delicate filament of the
lamp. Retreat was impossible; there is but one
entrance to the pyramid; and the darkness which
now descended upon me was indescribable; it pos-
sessed horrific qualities ; it seemed palpably to enfold
me like the wings of some monstrous bat. The air
of the King's Chamber I found to be almost unbear-
able, and it was no steady hand with which I gripped
The sounds of approach continued. The suspense
was becoming intolerable — ^when, into the Memphian
gloom below me, there suddenly intruded a faint
but ever-growing light. Between excitement and
insufficient air, I regarded suffocation as imminent.
Then, out into view beneath me, was thrust a slim
ivory hand which held an electric pocket lamp.
Fascinatedly I watched it, saw it joined by its fellow,
then observed a white-turbaned head and a pair of
black-robed shoulders follow. In my surprise I
almost dropped the weapon which I held. The new
arrival now standing upright and raising his head,
I found myself looking into the face of Abu
**To Allah, the Great, the Compassionate, be all
praise that I have found you alive, ' ' he said simply.
He exhibited little evidence of the journey which
I had found so fatiguing, but an expression strongly
like that of real anxiety rested upon his ascetic face.
**If life is dear to you,'' he continued, *^ answer
me this, Kernaby Pasha; have you found the ring?'*
46 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
'*I have not,** I replied; **my lamp failed mej but
I think the ring is gone.''
And now, as I spoke the words, the strangeness
of his question came home to me, bringing with it an
**What do you know of this ring, O my friend?'*
Abu Tabah shrugged his shoulders.
**I know much that is evil," he replied; ''and
because you doubt the purity of my motives, all
that I have learned you shall learn also; for Allah
the Great, the Merciful, this night has protected
you from danger and spared you a frightful death.
Follow me, Kernaby Pasha, in order that these
things may be made manifest to you. ' '
A pair of fleet camels were kneeling at the foot
of the slope below the entrance to the pyramid-
and having recovered somewhat from the effect of
the fatiguing climb out from the King's Chamber—
**It might be desirable," I said, ''that I adopt
a more suitable raiment for camel riding?"
Abu Tabah slowly shook his head in that dignified
manner which never deserted him. He had again
taken up his ebony walking-stick and was now rest-
ing his crossed hands upon it and regarding me with
his strange, melancholy eyes.
"To delay would be unwise," he replied. "You
have mercifully been spared a painful and unfor-
tunate end (all praise to Him who averted the
THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 4S
peril) ; but the ring, which bears an ancient curse,
is gone : for me there is no rest until I have found
and destroyed it/'
He spoke with a solemn conviction which bore
the seal of verity.
**Your destructive theory may be perfectly
sound," I said; *^but as one professionally interested
in relics of the past, I feel called upon to protest.
Perhaps before we proceed any further you will
enL'ghten me respecting this most obscure matter.
Can you inform me, for example, what became of
**He observed my approach from a distance, and
fled, being a man of little virtue. Respecting the
other matters you shall be fully enlightened, to-night
The white camel is for you. ' '
There was a gentle finality in his manner to which
I succumbed. My feelings towards this mysterious
being had undergone a slight change; and whilst I
cannot truthfully say that I loved him as a brother,
a certain respect for Abu Tabah was taking pos-
session of my mind. I began to understand his repu-
tation with the natives; beyond doubt his uncanny
wisdom was impressive; his lofty dignity awei
And no man is at his best arrayed in canvas shoes>
very dirty drill trousers, and a pyjama jacket.
As I had anticipated, the village of Meydum
proved to be our destination, and the gait of the
magnificent creatures upon which we were mounted
was exhausting. I shall always remember that
moonlight ride across the desert to the palm groves
50 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
of Meydum. I entered the house of the Sheikh with
misgivings; for my attire fell short of the ideal to
which every representative of protective Britain
looks up, but often fails to realize.
In a mandarah, part of it inlaid with fine mosaic
and boasting a pretty fountain, I was presented to
the imposing old man who was evidently the host
of Abu Tabah. Ere taking my seat upon the dhuan,
I shed my canvas shoes, in accordance with custom,
accepted a pipe and a cup of excellent coffee, and
awaited with much curiosity the next development.
A brief colloquy between Abu Tabah and the Sheikh,
at the further end of the apartment resulted in the
disappearance of the Sheikh and the approach of
my mysterious friend.
** Because, although you are not a Moslem, you
are a man of culture and understanding, ' ' said Abu
Tabah, *^I have ordered that my sister shall be
brought into your presence."
*^That is exceedingly good of you,'' I said, but
indeed I knew it to be an honor which spoke volumes
at once for Abu Tabah 's enlightenment and good
opinion of myself.
**She is a virgin of great beauty," he continued;
**and the excellence of her mind exceeds the perfec-
tion of her person."
**I congratulate you," I answered politely, *'upon
the possession of a sister in every way so desirable."
Abu Tabah inclined his head in a characteristic
gesture of gentle courtesy.
** Allah has indeed blessed my house," he ad-
THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERIJ 51
mitted; **and because your mind is filled with con-
jectures respecting the source of certain information
which you know me to possess, I desire that the
matter shall be made clear to you."
How I should have answered this singular man
I know not; but as he spoke the words, into the
mandarah came the Sheikh, followed by a girl robed
and veiled entirely in white. With gait slow and
graceful she approached the diwan. She wore a
white yelek so closely wrapped about her that it
concealed the rest of her attire, and a white tarhar,
or head- veil, decorated with gold embroidery, almost
entirely concealed her hair, save for one jet-black
plait in which little gold ornaments were entwined
and which hung down on the left of her forehead.
A white yashmak reached nearly to her feet, which
were clad in little red leather slippers.
As she approached me I was impressed, not so
much with the details of her white attire, nor with
the fine lines of a graceful figure which the gossamer
robe quite failed to conceal, but with her wonderful
gazelle-like eyes, which were uncannily like those
of her brother, save that their bordering of hoM lent
them an appearance of being larger and morei
No form of introduction was observed; with
modestly lowered eyes the girl saluted me and took
her seat upon a heap of cushions before a small
coffee table set at one end of the diwan. The Sheikh
seated himself beside me, and Abu Tabah, with a
reed pen, wrote something rapidly on a narrow strip
52 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
of paper. The Sheikh clapped his hands, a man
entered bearing a brazier containing live charcoal,
and, having placed it upon the floor, immediately
withdrew. The diwan was lighted by a lantern
swung from the ceiling, and its light, pouring fully
down upon the white figure of the girl, and leaving
the other persons and objects in comparative shadow,
produced a picture which I am unlikely to forget.
Amid a tense silence, Abu Tabah took from a box
upon the table some resinous substance. This he
sprinkled upon the fire in the brazier; and the girl
extending a small hand and round soft arm across
the table, he again dipped his pen in the ink and drew
upon the upturned palm a rough square which ho
divided into nine parts, writing in each an Arabic
figure. Finally, in the centre he poured a small
drop of ink, upon which, in response to words rapidly
spoken, the girl fixed an intent gaze.
Into the brazier Abu Tabah dropped one by one
fragments of the paper upon which he had written
what I presumed to be a form of invocation. Im-
mediately, standing between the smoking brazier and
the girl, he commenced a subdued muttering. I
recognized that I was about to be treated to an exhibi-
tion of darh el-mendel, Abu Tabah being evidently
a sahhar, or adept in the art called er-roohdnee. Save
for this indistinct muttering, no other sound dis-
turbed the silence of the apartment, until suddenly
the girl began to speak Arabic and in a sweet but
** Again I see the ring,'' she said, *^a hand is
THE DEATH-RING OP SNEFERU 53
holding it before me. The ring bears a green scarab,
upon which is written the name of a king of
Egypt. . . . The ring is gone. lean see it no more."
**Seek it/' directed Abu Tabah in a low voice,
and threw more incense upon the fire. **Are you
**Yes," replied the girl, who now began to tremble
violently, *^I am in a low passage which slopes
downwards so steeply that I am afraid."
**Fear nothing," said Abu Tabah; ^'follow the
With marvelous fidelity the girl described the pass-
age and the shaft leading to the King's Chamber in
the Pyramid of Meydum. She described the cavity
in the wall where once (if Hassan es-Sugra was
worthy of credence) the ring had been concealed.
* * There is a freshly made hole in the stonework, ' '
she said. **The picture has gone; I am standing
in some dark place and the same hand again holds
the ring before me. ' '
*'Is it the hand of an Oriental," asked Abu Tabah,
**or of a European?"
**It is the hand of a European. It has disap-
peared; I see a funeral procession winding out from
Rikka into the desert."
*^ Follow the ring," directed Abu Tabah, a queer,
compelling note in his voice.
Again he sprinkled perfume upon the fire and —
*^I see a Pharaoh upon his throne," continued the
monotonous voice, **upon the first finger of his left
hand he wears the ring with the green scarab. A
54 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
prisoner stands before him in chains; a woman
pleads with the king, but he is deaf to her. He
draws the ring from his finger and hands it to one
standing behind the throne — one who has a very
evil face. Ahi ..."
The girPs voice died away in a low wail of fear
or horror. But —
**What do you see!" demanded Abu Tabah.
**The death-ring of Pharaoh!'' whispered the soft
Toice tremulously; *4t is the death-ring!"
** Return from the past to the present," ordered
Abu Tabah. ' * Where is the ring now ? ' '
He continued his weird muttering, whilst the girl,
who still shuddered violently, peered again into the
pool of ink. Suddenly —
'*I see a long line of dead men," she whispered,
speaking in a kind of chant; **they are of all the
races of the East, and some are swathed in mummy
wrappings ; the wrappings are sealed with the death-
ring of Pharaoh. They are passing me slowly, on
their way across the desert from the Pyramid of
Meydum to a narrow ravine where a tent is erected.
They go to summon one who is about to join their
I suppose the suffocating perfume of the burning
incense was chiefly responsible, but at this point I
realized that I was becoming dizzy and that immedi-
ate departure into a cooler atmosphere was impera-
tive. Quietly, in order to avoid disturbing the
seance, I left the mandarah. So absorbed were the
three in their weird performance that my departure
THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 55
was apparently nnnoticed Out in the coolness of
the pahn grove I soon recovered. I doubt if I
possess the temperament which enables one to con-
template with equanimity a number of dead men
promenading in their shrouds.
**The truth is now wholly made manifest, '^ said
Abu Tabah; ^Hhe revelation is complete.''
Once more I was mounted upon the white camel
and the mysterious imam rode beside me upon its
fellow, which was of less remarkable color.
**I hear your words," I replied.
**The poor Ahmed Abdulla," he continued, **who
was of little wisdom, knew, as Hassan es-Sugra
knew, of the hidden ring; for he was one of those
who fled from the pyramid refusing to enter it again.
Greed spoke to him, however, and he revealed the
secret to a certain Englishman, called Bishop, con-
tracting to aid him in recovering the ring. ' '
At last enlightenment was mine . . . and it
brought in its train a dreadful premonition.
* * Something I knew of the peril, ' ' said Abu Tabah,
**but not, at first, all. The Englishman I warned,
but he neglected my warning. Already Ahmed
Abdulla was dead, having been despatched by his em-
ployer to the pyramid ; and the people of Rikka had
sent for me. Now, by means known to you, I learned
that evil powers threatened your life also, in what
form I knew not at that time save that the sign of
56 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
Set had been revealed to me in conjunction with
your death. ' '
**That the secret of the pyramid was a Pharaoh's
ring I did not leam until later ; but now it is made
manifest that the thing of power is the death-ring
of Sneferu. . . /'
The huge bulk of the Pyramid of Meydum loomed
above us as he spoke the words, for we were nearly
come to our destination; and its proximity oc-
casioned within me a physical chill. I do not thinfe
an open check for a thousand pounds would have
tempted me to enter the place again. The death-
ring of Sneferu possessed uncomfortable and super-
natural properties. So far as I was aware, no ex-
ample of such a ring (the lettre de cachet of the
period) was included in any known collection. One
dating much after Sneferu, and bearing the car-
touche of Apepi II (one of the Hyksos, or Shepherti
Kings) came to light late in the nineteenth century;
it was reported to be the ring which, traditionally,
Joseph wore as emblematical of the power vested
in him by Pharaoh. Sir Gaston Maspero and other
authorities considered it to be a forgery and it
vanished from the ken of connoisseurs. I never
learned by what firm it was manufactured.
A mile to the west of the pyramid we found Theo
Bishop 's encampment. I thought it to be deserted — •
until I entered the little tent. . . .
An oil-lamp stood upon a wooden box; and its
rays made yellow the face of the man stretched
THE DEATH-RING OF SNEFERU 57
upon the camp-bed. My premonition was realized;
Bishop must have entered the pyramid less than an
hour ahead of me; he it was who had stood upon
the mound, silhouetted against the sky, when I had
first approached the slope. He had met with the
fate of Ahmed Abdulla.
He had been dead for at least two hours, and by
the token of certain hideous glandular swellings,
I knew that he had met his end by the bite of an
**Abu Tabah!^' I cried, my voice hoarsely un-
natural — *'the recess in the King's Chamber is a
**You speak wisdom, Kernaby Pasha; the viper
is the servant of the ginn,"
Upon the third finger of his swollen right hand
Bishop wore the ring of ghastly history; and the
mysterious significance of the Sign of Set became
apparent. For added to the usual cartouche of the
Pharaoh was the symbol of the god of destruction,
We buried him deeply, piling stones upon the
grave, that the jackals of the desert might never
disturb the last holder of the death-ring of Snef eriL
THE LADY OF THE LATTICE.
THE interior of the room was very dark, bnt
with the aid of the electric torch which I
carried I was enabled to form a fairly good
impression of its general character, and having now
surveyed the entire house I had concluded that it
might possibly serve my purpose. The real owner-
ship of many native houses in Cairo is difncult to
establish, and the unveracious Egyptian from whom
I had procured the keys may or may not have been
entitled to let the premises. However, he had the
keys; and that in the Near East is a sufficient evi-
dence of ownership. My vievang the place at night
was dictated by motives of prudence ; for I did not
propose unduly to impress my personality upon the
inhabitants of the Darb el-Ahmar.
Curiosity respecting the outlook at the rear now
led me to enter the deep recess at one end of the
room, which boasted an imperfect but not unpictur-
esque miishrahiyeh window. ]\roonlight slanted
down into the narrow lane which the window over-
hung and cast a quaint fretwork shadow upon the
dusty floor at my feet. Idly I opened one of the
little square lattices and peered do\vn into the
shadowy gully beneath. The lane was silent and
THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 59
empty, and I next directed my attention to a similar
window which protruded from the adjoining house.
A panel corresponding to mine stood open also
in the neighboring window ; and by means of a soft
light in the room I detected the head and shoulders
of a woman, who, her arm resting upon the ledge,
surveyed the vacant night.
By reason of her position, whilst her hand and
arm lay fully in the moonlight, her face and figure
were indistinct. I, on the contrary, was clearly
visible to her, and although I knew that she must
have seen me she made no effort to withdraw. On
the contrary, she leaned artlessly forward as if to
gaze upon the stars, permitting me a sight of her
unveiled face and of a portion of her shapely neck.
Her eyes, as is usual with Egyptian women, were
large and fine, and as is usual with all women, she
was aware of the fact, casting glances upward and
to the right and left calculated to exhibit their
trhe coquetry of her movements was unmistakable ;
and when, lifting a pretty arm, she brushed aside a
lock of hair which overhung her brow and uttered a
tremulous sigh, I perceived that I had found favor
in her sight.
And indeed the graceful gesture had inclined my
heart towards her; for it had served to reveal not
only the symmetry of her shape but the presence
upon her arm, immediately above the elbow, of a
magnificent bangle in gold and lapis-lazuli, whichj
if I might trust my judgment, was fashioned no
60 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
later than the XlXth dynasty! Clearly the i&onse
next door, and its occupant, were the property of
some man of wealth and taste.
There is a maxim in the East — ** Avoid the veil'*;
and to this hitherto I had paid the strictest . atten-
tion. Soft glances from harem windows usually
leave me cold. But the presence of an armlet finer
than anything in the Treasure of Zagazig placed a
new complexion upon this affair, and the connoisseur
within me took the matter out of my hands.
Across the intervening patch of darkness our
glances met; the girPs dark lashes were lowered
demurely, then raised again, and the boldness of
my unfaltering gaze w^as rewarded by a smile. Thus
encouraged : —
*^0 daughter of the moon," I whispered fanci-
fully in Arabic, *^ condescend to speak to one whom
the sight of thy beauty hath enslaved. ' '
*^I fear to be discovered, Inglisi,'* came the soft
reply; ^*or willingly would I converse with thee,
for I am lonely and wretched. ' '
She sighed again and directed upon me a glance
that was less wretched than roguish. Evidently
the adventure was much to her liking.
*^Let me solace your loneliness," I replied; **for
assuredly we can conceive some plan of meeting."
She lowered her eyes at that, and seemed to
hesitate ; then —
*'In the roof of your house," she whispered, often
glancing over her shoulder into the room beyond^
**is a trap — ^which is bolted. . . ,"
THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 61
Footsteps sounded in the lane beneath — ^whereat
the vision at the window vanished and the lattice
was closed; bnt not before the girl had intimated
by a gesture that I was to remain.
Discreetly withdrawing into my dusty apartment,
I endeavored to make out the form of the intruder
who now was passing underneath the window; but
the density of the shadows in the lane rendered it
impossible for me to do so. He seemed to pause
for a time and I imagined that I could see him star-
ing upward; then he passed on and silence agaui
claimed that deserted quarter of Cairo.
For fully half an hour I waited, and was prepar-
ing to depart when a part of the shadows overlying
the projecting window seemed to grow blacker, and
I realized with joy that at last the lattice was reopen-
ing, but that the room within was now in darkness.
"Whilst I watched, remaining scrupulously invisible^
a small parcel deftly thrown dropped upon the floor
at my feet — and my neighbor's window was reclosed.
Closing my own, I picked up the parcel. It proved
to be a small ivory box, which at some time had
evidently contained kohl, wrapped in a piece of silk
and containing a note. Returning to the lower floor
I directed the light of my electric torch upon this
charmingly romantic billet. It was conceived in
English and characterized by the rather alarming
naivete of the Oriental woman. I give it in its
** To-morrow night, nine o'clock.**
j62 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
My cantious inqniries respecting the house in the
Darb el-Ahmar led only to the discovery that it
belonged to a mysterious personage whose . real
identity was unknown even to his servants ; but this
did not particularly intrigue me; for in the East
the maintenance of two entirely self-contained es-
tablishments is not more uncommon than in countries
less generously provided in the matter of marriage
laws. After all the taking of a second wife does not
so much depend on a man's religious convictions as
upon his first wife.
Eeflecting upon the probable history of the armlet
of lapis-lazuli, I returned to Shepheard's in time
to keep my appointment with Joseph Malaglou — a
professed Christian who claimed to be of Greek
parentage. I may explain here that it was necessary
to provide for the safe conduct through the customs
and elsewhere of those cases of *^ Sheffield cutlery'*
which actually contained the scarabs, necklaces, and
other *' antiques," the sale of which formed a part
of the business of my firm. Joseph Malaglou had
hitherto successfully conducted this matter for me,
receiving the goods and storing them at his own
warehouse; but for various reasons I had decided
in future to lease an establishment of my own for
He was waiting in the lounge as I entered, and
had he been less useful to me I think I should have
Jiad him thrown out; for if ever a swarthy villain
THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 63
iBtepped forth from the pages of an illustrated
**peiiny dreadful," that swarthy villain was Joseph
Malaglou. He approached me with outstretched
hand; he was perniciously polite; his ingratiatii^
smile fired my soul with a lust of blood. Fortun-
ately, our business was brief.
**The latest consignment is in the hands of my
agent at Alexandria,*' he said, **and if you are still
determined that the ten cases shall be despatched
to you direct, I will instruct him; but you cannot
very well have them sent here."
He shrugged and smiled, glancing all about the
**I have no intention of converting Shepheard's
Hotel into a cutlery warehouse," I replied. **I will
advise you in the morning of the address to which
the cases should be despatched."
Joseph Malaglou was palpably disturbed — a mys-
terious circumstance, since, whilst I had made no
mention of reducing his fees, under the new arrange-
ment he would be saved trouble and storage.
**As delay in these matters is unwise," he urged,
**why not have the goods despatched immediately,
and consigned to you at my address?"
There was reason on the iman's side, for I had
not yet actually leased the house in the Darb el-
lAhmar; therefore —
**I will sleep on the problem," I said, ''and ooitti
municate my decision in the morning. ' '
I stood on the steps watching him depart, a mafi
palpably disturbed in mind; indeed his behavior
6i TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
|iras altogether singular, and could only portend one
thing — knavery. I think it highly probable that the
pttoman Empire had a certain claim upon Joseph
Malaglou. He was one of those nondescript brutes
irhose mere existence is a menace to our rule in
the Near East. He openly applauded British
methods, and was the worst possible advertisement
for the cause he claimed to have espoused. Altogether
he left me in an uneasy mood ; so that shortly after
the third, or daybreak, call to prayer had sounded
from Cairo's minarets on the morrow, I had
arranged to lease the house in the Darb el-Ahmar
'for a period of three months, in the name of one
Ahmed Ben Tawwab, a mythical friend, and had
instructed Joseph Malaglou accordingly.
Other affairs claimed my attention throughout the
day; but dusk discovered me at my newly acquired
house in the quaint street adjoining the Bab ez-
Zuwela. I procured the keys from the venerable old
thief who had leased me the premises and learned
from him that a representative of Joseph Malaglou
had been admitted to the house earlier in the evening,
in accordance with my instructions, and had de-
livered a load of boxes there.
Thus, on opening the door, I was not surprised
to find the ten cases from Alexandria lying within,
neatly labelled :
To Ahmed Ben Tawwab,
THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 65
Ascending to the top floor, I mounted the rickety
ladder and unbolted and opened the trap. A cautious
glance to the right revealed the fact that little diffi-
culty existed in passing from roof to roof; for in
Egyptian houses these are flat and are used for
various domestic purposes. I consulted my watch:
the hour of the tryst was come.
And even as I learned the fact, from my neigh-
bor's roof sounded the faint creaking of hinges
. . . and out into the moonlight stepped an odd
figure — that of the lady of the lattice, dressed in a
** European" blue serge costume which had obvious-
ly been purchased, ready made, in the bazaars!
She wore high-heeled French shoes upon her pretty
feet and her picturesque hair was concealed beneath
a large Panama hat, from the brim of which floated
one of those voluminous green veils dear to the
heart of touring woman and so arranged as to hide
her face. Only the gleam of her eyes and teeth was
visible through the gauze.
I assisted her to step across, wondering since she
was thus attired, to what crazy expedition I was
** Please do not kiss me," she whispered, speaking
in moderately good English, **Fatimah is listening I"
Such ingenuousness was rather alarming.
**But," I replied, *^you have left the trap open."
*'It is all right. Fatimah has locked the door of
my room and will admit no one, because I have a
headache and am sleeping 1"
Resting her hand confidingly in mine, she da^
€6 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
scended the ladder into the adjoining house, and,
removing the veil from her face, looked up at me.
'*You will be kind to me, will you not!*' she
I suppose a lengthy essay upon the mentality of
Oriental womanhood would serve no purpose here,
therefore I refrain from inserting it. Seated upon
the chests in the room below, Mizmuna — for this
was her name — confided her troubles with perturb-
ing frankness. She had conceived a characteristic-
ally Eastern and sudden infatuation for my society;
nor am I prepared to maintain that she would have
remained obdurate to anyone else who had been
in a position to unbolt the door which offered the
only chance of escape from her prison. The house
of mystery, she informed me, belonged to a person
styling himself Yussuf of Rosetta (a name that
sounded factitious) and she hated him. For two
months, I gathered, she had been in Cairo, during
which time she had never passed beyond the walls
of the neighboring courtyard. And the object of
her nocturnal adventure was innocent enough; she
wanted to see the European shops and the tourists
passing in and out of the big hotels in the Sharia
Kamel Pasha I
It was as we passed along the Sharia el-Maghribi,
where I had pointed out the St. James 's Restaurant,
letter known as ** Jimmy's," I remember, that
THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 67
Mizmuna nttered a little, suppressed cry, and
clutched my arm sharply.
'*OhI'' she whispered fearfully, **it is Hannal
and he has seen me ! ' '
With frightened, fascinated eyes she was staring
across the street, apparently at a group of curiously
muffled natives — and her whole body was trembling.
"Quick I'' she said, pulling me urgently, *'take
me back I if they find me they will kill me I ' '
"But if they have already seen you '*
"Oh! take me back," she entreated piteously,
^*Hanna must not find out where I live."
Here was mystery; but evidently my first dread-
ful theory that Hanna was Mizmuna 's husband
had been incorrect. Apparently he was not even
acquainted with Yussuf of Rosetta. But whoever
or whatever he might be, I silently cursed the lapis
armlet which had led me to involve myself in his
affairs, as I hurried my companion across the Place
de 1 'Opera and homeward, . . .
We were come indeed unmolested but breathless,
as near our destination as that nameless street
beside the Mosque of Muayyad, when Mizmuna
suddenly stopped, uttered a stifled shriek, and —
"Oh, save me!" she panted, winding her arms
about my neck. "Look! Look! in the shadow of
the mosque door!"
Panic threatened me for one fleeting moment;
for this part of Cairo is utterly deserted at night
and the mystery of the thing was taking toll of my
nerves ; then firmly unclasping the trembling arms,.
68 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
I pushed Mizmuna behind me and snatched ont
mj Colt automatic ... as a group of muffled
figures became magically detached from the shadows
that had hidden them ; and began silently to advance.
I raised the pistol.
''Ushur!" I cried ''am eh?" (Stop! what do
They halted at once; but no answering voice
broke the uncanny silence in which they regarded
me. Mizmuna plucked at my arm.
** Quick! Quick !'^ she whispered tremulously,
* ^ the keys ! the keys ! * '
I was swift to grasp her meaning.
**My right pocket!^' I whispered in answer.
The girPs shaking hand groped for the keys,
found them; and, uttering no parting word,
Mizmuna darted off along the Sukkariya, which
here bisects the Darb el-Ahmar. An angry mutter-
img arose from the little knot of oddly muffled
figures, but not one of them had the courage to
attempt a pursuit of the fugitive. Keeping my
back to the wall of the mosque and feeling along it
with one hand outstretched, I began to back away
from the attacking party; intending to take to
my heels along the first lane I came to.
This plan was sound enough; its weakness lay
in the fact that I could make no proper survey of
that which lay immediately behind me. The result
was that I backed into someone who must have
b#en stealthily approaching from the rear.
I knew nothing of his presence until he suddenly
THE JjADY op the LATTICE 69
threw himself upon from behind, and I was down
on mj face in the dust! My pistol was jerked out
of my hand, and, still preserving that unbroken dis-
concerting silence, the muffled group bore down
I gave myself up for lost. My unseen assailant,
who seemingly possessed wrists of steel, jerked my
right hand up into the region of my shoulder-blades
and pinioned my left arm so as to render me help-
less as an infant. Then two of the muffled Nubians
— for Nubians the moonlight now showed them to be
— raised me to my feet, and the grip from behind
That I had unwittingly intruded upon the amouns
of some wealthy and unscrupulous pasha I no
longer doubted; and knowing somewhat of the
ways of outraged lovers of the East, the mental
vision which arose before me was unpleasing to
contemplate. Yet even the extravagant picture
which my imagination had painted fell short of
the ferocious reality. For even as I was lifted
upright, in the grasp of my huge guards, a door in
the side of the neighboring mosque burst open,
and there sprang into view an excessively tall,
excessively lean and hawk-faced old man carrying
a naked scimitar in his hand.
He possessed eyes like the eyes of an eagle, and
a thin, hooked nose having dilated, quivering
nostrils. In three huge strides he reached me,
towered over me like some evil girmee of Arabian
lore, and raised his gleaming scimitar with th©
70 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
nnmistakable intention of severing my head from
my trunk at a single blow !
I think I have never experienced an identical
sensation in my life; my tongue clave to the roof
of my mouth; my heart suspended its functions;
and I felt my eyes start forward in their sockets.
I had not thought my constitution capable of such
profound and helpless fear, nor had I hitherto paid
proper respect to the memory of Charles I. I
would gladly have closed my eyes in order that I
might not witness the downward sweep of the fatal
blade, but the lids seemed to be paralysed. Never
whilst memory serves me can I forget one detail
of the appearance of that frightful old devil;
and never can I forget my gratitude to that
unseen captor, the man who had seized me from
behind, and who now, alone, averted the blade from
Over my head he lunged — with an ebony stick
— and skilfully; so that the pointed ferrule came
well and truly into contact with the knuckles of my
would-be executioner. The weapon fell, jingling,
at my feet . . . and a slim, black-robed figure was
suddenly interposed between myself and the furious
It was Abu Tabah!
Dignified, unruffled, his classically beautiful
face composed and resembling, in the moonlight,
beneath the snowy turban, that of some young
prophet, he stood, one protective hand resting upon
my shoulder, and confronted my assailant. Hig^
THE LADY OP THE LATTICE 71
eyes were aglow with the eerie light of fanaticism.
**It is written that the wrath of fools is the joy
of Iblees," * he declared.
Their glances met in conflict, the eagle eyes of
my aged but formidable enemy glaring insanely
into the fine, dark eyes of Abu Tabah. The Arab
was by no means quelled; yet presently his glance
fell before the hypnotic stare of the mysterious
**The Prophet (may God be kind to him) spared
not the despoiler!" he said heavily. *'With these,
my two hands'* — he extended the twitching,
sinewy members before Abu Tabah — *'will I choke
the life from the throat of the dog who wronged
Abu Tabah raised his hand sternly
**This matter has been entrusted to me/' he
said, staring down the enraged old man. '*If you
would have me abandon it, say so; if you would
have me pursue it, be silent. ' '
For five seconds the other sustained the strange
gaze of those big, mysterious eyes, then folded his
arms upon his breast, audibly gnashing his large
and strong-looking teeth and averting his head from
my direction in order that spleen might not con-
sume him. Abu Tabah turned and confronted
** Explain the cause of your presence here,*' he
demanded, continuing to speak in Arabic, **and
mifold to me the whole truth respecting your case.'*
n TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
**My friend/' I replied, steadily regarding him,
**I am eternally your debtor; but I decline to
utter one word for explanation until these fellows
unhand me and until I am offered some suitable
excuse for the outrageous attack upon my person."
Abu Tabah performed his curiously Gallic shrug
of the shoulders — and pointed, with his ebony cane,
to my pinioned arms. In a trice the Nubians fell
back, and I was free. The infuriated old man
directed upon me a glance that was bloodily
ferocious, but — '
*'0 persons of little piety," I said, *^is it thus
that a true Moslem rewards the generous impulse
and the meritorious deed? To-night a damsel in
distress, flying from a brutal captor, solicited my
aid. I was treacherously assaulted ere I could
escort her to a place of safety, and all but murdered
by the man who would appear to be that damsel's
natural protector. Alas, I fear to contemplate
what may have befallen her as a result of such vile
and foolish conduct."
Abu Tabah slightly inclined his body resting
his slim, ivory hands upon his cane; his face
remained perfectly tranquil as he listened to this
correct, though misleading statement ; but —
'*Ah!" cried the old man of the scimitar, adopt-
ing an unpleasant, crouching attitude, ** perjured
liar that thou art! Did I not see with mine own
eyes how she embraced thee? 0, son of a mange,
that I should have lived to have witnessed so
obscene a spectacle. Not content with despoiling
THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 73
me of this jewel of my harem, thou dost parade
her abandomnent and my shame in the publix)
highways of Cairo ! ..."
In vain Abu Tabah strove to check this tirade.
Step by step the Sheikh approached closer ; syllable
by syllable his voice rose higher.
*'What!'' he shrieked, '4s it for this that I have
offered five thousand English pounds to whomso-
ever shall restore her to me! Faugh! I spit upon
her memory! — and though I pursue thee to the
Mountains of the Moon, across the Bridge Es-
Sirat, and through the valley of Gahennam, lo!
my hour will come to slay thee, noisome offal!"
He ceased from lack of breath, and stood quiver-
ing before me. But at last I had grasped the clue
to this imbroglio into which fate had thrust me.
**0 misguided man," I replied, ** grief hath up-
set thine intelligence. Again I tell thee that I
sought to deliver the damsel from her persecutor,
and, perceiving an ambush, she clung to me as her
only protector. Thou are demented. Let another
earn the paltry reward ; I will have none of it. ' '
I turned to Abu Tabah, addressing him in English.
'* Relieve me of the society of this infatuated old
ruffian," I said, **and accompany me to some place
where I can quietly explain what I know of the
** Assuredly I will accompany you to such a
spot," he answered suavely; **for whilst, knowing
your character, I do not believe you to be the
abductor of the damsel Mizmuna, a warrant to
74 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
search yonr house was issued an hour ago, on a
fiiarge of hashish smuggling I ' '
There are certain shocks that numb the brain.
This was one of them. My recollection of the period
immediately following those words of Abu Tabah
is hazy and indistinct. My narrow escape from
decapitation at the hands of the ferocious Arab
assassin and the tangled love-affairs of that aged
Othello became insignificant memories. (I seem
to recollect that we left him in tears.)
My next clear-cut memory is that of walking
beside the mysterious imam along the Darb el-
Ahmar and of stopping before the closed door of
my newly acquired premises I
The street was quite deserted again. Those
muffled Nubians who seemed to constitute a body-
guard for my inscrutable companion had dis-
appeared in company with the bereaved Sheikh.
**This is your house f said Abu Tabah sweetly.
My habit of thinking before I speak or act
asserted itself automatically.
**I recently leased it on another's behalf," I
**In that event,'' continued the imam, ** unless
the information lodged with me to-night prove to
be inaccurate, that other must speedily proclaim
himself. ' '
He tested the cumbersome lock, and, as I knew
would be the case, since Mizmuna had recently
THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 75
entered, found it to be unfastened, opened the door
and stepped in.
**Have you a pocket lamp?*' he asked.
I pressed the button of my electric torch and
directed its rays fully upon the stack of boxes. It
was the great sage, Apollonius of Tyana, who said
** loquacity has many pitfalls, but silence none*';
therefore I silently watched Abu Tabah consulting
the label on the topmost chest. Presently —
** Ahmed Ben Tawwab,'' he read aloud; "is that
the name of the friend on whose behalf you secured
a lease of this house?"
**It is,'* I answered.
"If you will rest the light upon this box and
assist me to open one of the others, I shall be
obliged to you,'' said Abu Tabah.
Knowing, as I did, that this strange man was in
some way connected with the native police and with
the guardianship of Egyptian morals, I recognized
refusal to be impolitic if not impossible. But, as
we set to work to raise the lid of the chest, my mind
was more feverishly busy than my fingers.
Ere long our task was successful, and the con-
tents of the chest lay exposed. These were: two
hundred Osiris statuettes, twelve one-pound tins of
mummy heads . . . and fifty packets of hashish.
Silence was no effort to me now; I was dumb-
founded. The musical voice of my companion broke
in upon my painful reverie.
"The information upon which I now am acting,''
he said, "reached me to-night in the form of a
76 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
letter, bearing no address and no signature. The
suppression of this vile hashish traffic is so near to
my heart that I immediately secured the necessary
powers to search the premises named, and was on
my way hither when I observed you (although I
did not at once recognize you) in the act of escaping
from a group of my servants who had been detailed,
some weeks ago, to trace a missing damsel known
to be in Cairo. Concerning your share in that affair
I await a full statement from your own lips; con-
cerning your share in this I can only say that
unless Ahmed Ben Tawwab comes forward by to-
morrow and admits his guilt, I must apply to the
British agent for a formal inquiry. Is there any-
thing that you would wish to say, or any action you
desire that I should teikeV*
I turned to him in the dim light. Habitually I
am undemonstrative, especially with natives. But
there was a nobility and an implacable sense of
justice about this singular religieux which conquered
^*Abu Tabah,'' I said, *'I thank you for your
friendship. I have committed a grave folly; but
I am neither an abductor nor a hashish dealer.
This is the work of an unknown enemy, and already
I have a theory respecting his identity.'*
*'Can I aid you — or do you prefer that I leave
you to pursue this clue in your own way?" he
**I prefer to work alone.'*
"The affair is truly mysterious,'* he admitted
THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 77
'^and I purpose to spend the night in meditation
respecting it. After the hour of morning prayer,
therefore, I will visit you. LUtdJc sa^tda, Kernaby
**LUtak sa'ida, Abu Tabah/' I said, as he stepped
out of the door.
Slowly and stately the imam passed down the
street; and the ginnee of solitude reclaimed that
deserted spot. A night watchman, nehbut on
shoulder, passed along the distant Sukkariya. A
I re-entered the doorway conscious of a sudden
mental excitement; for an explanation of the
anonymous letter had just presented itself to my
mind. The owner of the neighboring house must
have detected my rendezvous with his lady-love,
have investigated the contents of the cases, and
denounced me from motives of revenge! That the
villainous Joseph Malaglou had been in the habit
of smuggling hashish into Egypt in my cases of
** cutlery" was evident enough and accounted for
his reluctance to fall in with the new arrangement;
but my bemused brain utterly failed to grapple
with the problem of why, knowing their damning
"Contents, he had permitted these ten cases to be
delivered at my address. Moreover, how my worthy
neighbor — who had evidently abducted Mizmuna
from the old man of the scimitar — had learned my
real name was another mystery which I found no
leisure to examine. For I had but just set foot
again within the ill-omened place when there came
78 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
a patter of swift, light footsteps — and out from
behind the fatal stack of boxes ran Mizmuna,
and threw herself into my arms !
**0h, my friend, my protector!'* she cried dis-
tractedly, **what shall I do? Yussuf has dis-
covered onr plot! Fatimah, that mother of
calamities, has betrayed me, and I dare not
return! I am an outcast; for although I was
stolen from the Sheikh Ismail without my consent,
how can I hope for his forgiveness ? ' '
Such a flood of sorrows and confidences over-
whelmed me, and I placed a silent but deathless
curse upon the lapis armlet which had brought me
to this pass. Mizmuna sobbed upon my shoulder.
*^ Yussuf has planned your ruin as well as mine,'*
she said brokenly. **For it was he who denounced
you to the Magician.*' (As ^'ihe Magician" Abu
Tabah was known and feared throughout Lowei
Egypt.) *'0h that I might return to the house
of Ismail where I lived in luxury in a marble
pavilion, guarded by Hanna and a hundred negroes,
where I possessed the robes of a princess and was
laden with costly jewels !"
So very human and natural an ambition met
with my hearty approval, and, upon consideration
of the word-picture of his domestic state, the old
man of the scimitar rose immensely in my esteem.
How my malevolent neighbor had succeeded in
abducting Mizmuna from such a fortress I failed to
imagine. But I began to see my way more clearly
and hope was reborn in my bosom.
THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 79
**Fear nothing, child," I said to the weeping girl.
**You shall return to your marble pavilion and to
the care of that worthy, if somewhat hasty man,
from whose arms you were torn. And now inform
me — where is Yussuf ?"
Mizmuna raised her face and looked up at me,
her long lashes wet with tears, but the slow, childish
smile of the Eastern woman already curving her red
**He is in his own room destroying papers," she
**Who told you this T"
**Ali, the bowwah, who is faithful to me — and
who hates Fatimah."
'*Is the trap rebolted?"
**I know not."
** Remain here until I return," I said, seating
her upon one of the boxes. ** Where are my keyst"
**I hid them upon the ledge of the window, beside
the door yonder."
Taking them from this simple *' hiding-place," I
locked the door to give Mizmuna courage, and, tak-
ing the lamp with me, began to mount the stairs,
first assuring myself of the presence in my pocket
of my Colt automatic, which Abu Tabah had re-
stored to me.
The ray of my lamp shining out ahead, I came to
the crazy ladder giving access to the trap. I climbed
up, raising the trap, and gazed upon the jeweled
dome of midnight Egypt. Dire necessity spurred
me, and I walked across to the adjoining trap, care-
80 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
fally inserted two fingers in the iron ring and pulled.
It was not fastened below! Inch by inch I
raised it, and, finding the room beneath it to be
in darkness, opened the trap fully and descended
I flashed the light quickly about the place; then
stood staring at what it revealed. My heart began
to beat rapidly, for in that dirty attic I had found
salvation . . . and a further clue to the mystery
of all my misfortunes.
It was a hashish warehouse !
Taking off my shoes, I thrust one into either
pocket of my Jacket, and, perceiving that the house
was constructed on a plan identical with that adjoin-
ing it, I crept downstairs to the apartment of the
mushrabiyeh window. A heavy curtain was draped
in the doorway, but I could see that the room within
I drew the curtains slowly aside and peeped in.
I saw an apartment that had evidently been fur-
nished very luxuriantly, but which now was partially
dismantled. In the recess formed by the mndow
a low table was placed, bearing a shaded lamp. The
table was littered with papers, account books and
ledgers; and, seated thereat, his back towards the
door, was a man who figured feverishly. I stepped
into the room.
'*Good evening, Yussuf of Rosetta,'* I said; *'you
do well to set your affairs in order.'*
THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 81
Swiftly as though a serpent had touched him, the
man in the recess leaped to his feet and twisted
ahout to confront me.
I found myself looking into a hideous, swarthy
face — ^blanched now to the lips, so that the cunning
black eyes glared out as from a mask — into the
hideous swarthy face of Joseph Malaglou!
The store of hashish in the upper room had some-
what prepared me for this discovery; yet, momen-
tarily, the consummate villainy of the Greek had me
bereft of speech. As I stood there glaring at him, he
began furtively to grope with one hand along the
edge of the diwan behind him. Then, suddenly, he
became aware of the pistol which I carried — and
abandoned the quest of whatever weapon he had
sought, swallowing audibly.
''So, my good Malaglou," I said, "you sought to
make me responsible for your sins, my friend! I
perceive now how the Fates have played with me.
My very first conversation with your charming
He bit savagely at his black moustache, advanced
upon me ; then, his gaze set upon the Colt, he stood
** . . . was reported to you by the traitorous
Fatimah," I continued evenly; ''and, when, on th©
morrow, I advised you of my new address, the iden-
tity of the hitherto unknown Romeo who had raise9
his eyes to your Juliet became apparent. You
82 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
doubtless liad designed to nnpacii mv boxes for me
as you have been in the habit of doing; but green-
eyed jealousy suggested how, by the sacrifice of
only one consignment of JiasJiish, you might wreak
my ruin. I disapprove of your morals, Malaglou.
My own code may be peculiar, but it does not em-
brace hashish dealing; therefore, Malaglou, you are
about to take a sheet of note-paper — ^bearing your
office heading — and write from my dictation. . . . "
**And suppose I refuse? You dare not shoot
**You little know my true character, Malaglou.
But I should not shoot you, as you say; I should
introduce you to a gentleman who is very anxious
to make your acquaintance — the venerable Sheikh
The effect of this remark greatly exceeded my
most sanguine expectations. I think I have never
seen a man so pitiably frightened.
**The Sheikh . . . Ismail!" gasped Joseph
Malaglou. ^ ' He is in Cairo ? ' '
'*He has generously offered me f^vQ thousand
pounds for your name and address."
**Ah, my God!" whispered Malaglou. '^Kemaby,
you will not betray me to that fiend f You are an
Englishman and you will not soil your hands with
such a deed ! ' '
To my dismay — for it was a disgusting sight —
Malaglou fell trembling upon his Imees before me.
The threat of shooting had had no such effect as
the mere name of the Sheikh Ismail. My respeof
THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 83
for that really remarkable old mffian rose by leaps
**Get up,*' I said harshly, **and, if yon can,
He obeyed me; the man was almost hysterical
And, very shakily, this is what he wrote :
**I, Joseph Malaglou, also known as Ahmed
Ben Tawwab, confess that I am a dealer in hashish
and spurious antiques, which I have been in the
habit of storing at my warehouse in Cairo, and
also in my private residence in the Darb el Ahmar.
Finding it desirable to enlarge the facilities of the
latter, I induced the Hon. Neville Kernaby, who
is ignorant of my real business, to lease for me a
house which adjoins my own, as I did not desire it
to be known that I was the lessee. Subsequently,
learning that the suspicions of the authorities had
been aroused, I anonymously denounced Kernaby,
thus hoping to avert suspicion from myself and
cause his arrest as the consignee of the cases which
had been delivered at the new premises. ' '
**Very good,'* I said, when this precious document
bad been completed. ** You understand that you will
now accompany me to the central police station
in the Place Bab el-Khalk and sign this confession
in the presence of suitable witnesses'? You will
doubtless be detained; therefore in the interests of
your safety, we must arrange that Mizmuna be
hidden securely until the case is settled. Oh I set
vour evil mind at rest! I shall not betray you to
84 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
the Sheikh; unless — '' I looked him squarely in the
eyes — *^any whisper of my name appears in this
**But where is shef he said hoarsely.
**She is hiding in the adjoining house.''
* * I have a small place at Shubra where I can con-
ceal her. ' '
**Very well. I will bring her here and permit
you to make suitable arrangements, but let them
be complete; for if Ismail should find the girl and
thus discover your identity, nothing could save you
— and you will be unable to leave Cairo (I shall see
to that) until the case is settled."
It was on the following evening, as I sat smoking
upon the terrace of the hotel and reflecting upon
the execrably bad luck which pursued me, that I
observed Abu Tabah mounting the carpeted steps
with slow and stately carriage. He saluted me
gravely and accepted the seat which I offered him.
My plan had run smoothly; Malaglou had given
himself up to the authorities, but had been released
upon payment of a substantial bail. Mizmuna was
concealed at Shubra, and I was flogging my brain
in a vain endeavor to conjure up a plan whereby,
without betraying the villainous Greek and thus
causing him to betray me, I might secure the
Sheikh's reward — or, at least, the lapis armlet.
**Alas," said Abu Tabah, '^that the wicked should
THE LADY OF THE LATTICE 85
**To whose prosperity,*' I inquired, **do yon more
He regarded me with his fine melancholy eyes.
**You have an English adage,'' he continued,
** which sa>s, 'set a thief to catch a thief.' "
*' Quite so. But might I inquire what bearing this
crystallized wisdom has upon our present conversa-
**The man, Joseph Malaglou," he replied, 'beam-
ing of the hue-and-cry after a certain missing
I remember I was about to light a cigar as he
uttered those words, but a dawning perception of
the iniquitous truth crept poisonously into my mind,
and I threw both ciccar and matches over the rail
into the Shara Kamel and clutched fiercely at the
little table between us.
**And of the reward offered for her recovery,"
pursued the imam, ** denounced to us, one Yussuf
of Rosetta, a man owning a small house at Shubra.
Yussuf had fled, and the only occupant of the place
was the missing damsel Mizmuna. Alas that fortune
should so favor the sinful. The abductor, the de-
spoiler, escapes retribution; and the traitor, the
informer, the dealer in hashish is rewarded."
The Turk has signally failed to rule Egypt; but
there are certain Ottoman institutions which are
not without claims, as I realized at that moment in
regard to Joseph Malaglou: I was thinking, par-
ticularly, of the bow-string.
** Already," said Abu Tabah, with his sweet but
86 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
melancholy smile, **tlie heart of the Sheikh Ismail
inclined toward the damsel, for whom his soul
yearned; and has not it been written that he who
heals the breach betwixt man and wife shall him-
self be blessed! Behold the reward of the peace-
maker—which I design as a gift to mv sister.''
I was nnable to speak, but I became aware of a
bitter taste upon my palate as, from beneath his
robe, ih^. prr^M'ng imam took out the armlet of gold
and lapis-lazuli I
OMAR OF ISPAHAN
««X HEAB that the Harem Suit is occupied,"
said Sir Bertram CoUis, bustling up to me as
I sat smoking in the gardens of a certain Cairo
hotel, which I shall not name because of the matters
that befell there. ** Daphne is full of curiosity re-
specting the romantic occupant."
** Don't let Lady CoUis be too sure/' put in Chun-
dermeyer, **that there is anything romantic about
''Your definition of romance, Chundermeyer," I
interrupted, '* would probably be 'a diamond the size
of a Spanish onion. ' ' *
Chundermeyer smiled, but it was a smile in which
his dark eyes, twinkling through the pebbles of
horn-rimmed spectacles, played no part. I must
confess that the society of this unctuous partner
in the well-known Madras firm of Isaacs and Chun-
dermeyer palled somewhat at times. He, on the
other hand, was eternally dropping into a chair
beside me, and proffering huge and costly cigars
from a huge and costly case. This sort of parvenu
persecution is one of the penalties of being recog-
nized by Debrett.
"As a matter of fact," I continued, "the occupant
88 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
of the Harem Suite is no less romantic a personage
than the daughter of the Mudir (Governor) of the
**Keally!^* said Chundermeyer, with that sudden
interest which mention of a title always aroused in
him. ** Surely it is most unusual for so highly
placed a Moslem lady to reside at an hotel!"
**Most unusual,'* I replied. **0f course such a
thing would be inconceivable in India; but the
management of this establishment, who cater almost
exclusively to tourists, find, I am told, that a * harem
suite' is quite a good advertisement. The reason
of the presence of this lady in the hotel is a diplo-
Imatic one. She is visiting Cairo in order to witness
the procession of Ashura, peculiarly sacred to
Egyptian women, and it appears that, having no
blood relations here, she could not accept the hos-
pitality of any one of the big families without
alienating the others."
*^By Jove!" said Sir Bertram, **I must tell
Daphne this yarn. She'll be delighted! Come along,
Kemaby; if we're to have tea at Mena House, it is
high time we were off. ' '
I left Chundermeyer to his opulent cigar without
regret. That he was an astute man of affairs and
an expert lapidary I did not doubt, for he had offered
to buy my Hatshepsu scarab ring at a price exactly
ten per cent below its trade value ; but to my mind
there is something almost as unnatural about a
Hindu-Hebrew as about a Graeco- Welshman or a
OMAR OF ISPAHAN 89
Of course, Daphne Collis was not ready; and, Sir
Bertram going up to their apartments to induce her
to hurry, I strolled out again into the gardens for
a quiet cigarette and a cocktail. As I approached
a suitable seat in a sort of charming little arbor
festooned with purple blossom, a man who had been
waiting there rose to greet me.
With a certain quickening of the pulse, I recog-
nized Abu Tabah, arrayed, as was his custom, in
black, only releived by a small snowy turban, which
served to enhance the ascetic beauty of his face and
the mystery of the wonderful, liquid eyes.
He inclined his head in that gesture of gentle
dignity which I knew ; and :
*'I have been awaiting an opportunity of speech
with you, Kernaby Pasha,'* he said, in his flawless,
musical English, **upon a matter in which I hope
you will consent to aid me."
Since this mysterious man, variously known as
*'the imam'* and **the Magician,** but whom I knew
to be some kind of secret agent of the Egyptian
Government, had recently saved me from assassina-
tion, to decline to aid him was out of the question.
"We seated ourselves in the arbor.
**I should welcome an opportunity of serving you,
my friend,*' I assured him, ** since your services to
me can never be repaid."
His lips moved slightly in the curiously tender
smile which a poor physiognomist might have mis-
taken for evidence of effeminacy, bending towards
me with a cautious glance about.
90 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
*'Yon are staying at this hotel throughout th6
Christmas festivities?'* he asked.
**Yes; I have temporarily deserted Shepheard'a
in order to accept the hospitality of Sir Bertram
CoUis, a very old friend. I shall probably return
on the Tuesday following Christmas Day.''
** There is to be a carnival and masquerade ball
here to-morrow. You shall be present ! ' '
**I hope so," I replied in surprise. **To what
does all this tend?"
Abu Tabah bent yet closer.
**Many of your friends and acquaintances possess
' * Then warn them — individually, in order to occa-
sion no general alarm — to guard these with the
My surprise increased. ''You alarm me," I said.
' ' Are there rogues in our midst ? ' '
"No," answered the imam, fixing his melancholy
gaze upon my face; "so far as my knowledge bears
me, there is but one, yet that one is worse than a
host of others."
"Do you mean that he is here — in the hotel!"
Abu Tabah shrugged his slim shoulders.
"If I knew his exact whereabouts," he replied,
"there would be no occasion to fear him. All that
I know is that he is in Cairo ; and since many richly
attired women of Europe and America will be here
to-morrow night, of a surety Omar Ali Khan will
be here also ! ' '
OMAR OF ISPAHAN 91
I shook my head in perplexity.
'^Oinar Ali Khan?'' ^I began.
<'Ah,'' continued Abu Tabah, **to you that name
conveys nothing, but to me it signifies Omar of
Ispahan, Hhe Father of Thieves.' Do you remem-
ber," fixing his strange eyes hypnotically upon me,
*'the theft of the sacred hurlco of Nefisehr'
''Quite well,*' I replied hastily; since the incident
represented an unpleasant memory.
''It was Omar of Ispahan who stole it from the
shrine. It was Omar of Ispahan who stole the blue
diamond of the Rajah of Bagore from the treasure-
room at JuUapore, and Omar of Ispahan" — ^lower-
ing his voice almost to a whisper — ''who stole the
Holy Carpet ere it reached Mecca!"
"What!" I cried. "When did that happen? I
never heard of such an episode!"
Abu Tabah raised his long, slim hand wamingly.
"Be cautious!" he whispered; "the flowers of the
garden, the palms in the grove, the very sands of
the desert have ears! The lightest word spoken in
the harem of the Khedive, or breathed from a
minaret of the Citadel, is heard by Omar of Ispahan!
The holy covering for the Kaaba was restored, on
payment of a ruinous ransom by the Sherif of Mecca,
and none save the few ever knew of its loss."
For a time I was silent ; words failed me ; for the
veil of the Kaaba, miscalled "the Carpet," is about
the size of a bowling-green ; then —
"In what manner does this affair concern yoii,
Abu Tabah f" I asked.
92 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
''In tins way: the daughter of the Mndir el-
Fayum is here, in order that she may be present
on the Night of Ashiira in the Muski. For a Moslem
lady to stay in such a place as this" — ^there was
a faint note of contempt in the speaker's voice —
*'is without precedent, but the circumstances are
peculiar. The khan near the Mosque of Hosein is
full, and it is not seemly that the Mudir's daughter
should live at any lesser establishment. Therefore,
as she brings her two servants, it has been possible
for her to remain here. But" — his voice sank
again — '* her ornaments are famed throughout
I nodded comprehendingly.
*'To me," Abu Tabah whispered, '*has been en-
trusted the task of guarding them; to you, I entrust
that of guarding the possessions cf the other
guests ! ' '
''But, my friend," I said, ''this is a dreadful
responsibility which you impose upon me."
"Other precautions are being taken," he replied
calmly; "but you, observing great circumspection,
can speak to the guests, and, being forewarned of
his presence, can even watch for the coming of
Omar of Ispahan.'^
The effect of my news upon Lady CoUis was truly
OMAR OF ISPAHAN 93
**0h," she cried, ''my rope of pearls. Mr. Chnn-
dermeyer only told me last week that it was worth
at least two hundred pound more than I gave for
Mr. Chundermeyer had made himself popular with
many of the ladies in the hotel by similar diplomatic
means, but I think that if he had been compelled to
purchase at his own flattering valuations Messrs.
Isaacs and Chundermeyer would have been ruined.
*'You need not wear it, my dear," said her hus-
** Don't be so ridiculous!" she retorted. ''You
know I have brought my Queen of Sheba costume
for to-morrow night."
That, of course, settled the matter, so that beyond
Inaking one pretty woman extremely nervous, my
campaign against the dreaded Omar of Ispahan had
opened — ^blankly. Later in the day T circulated my
warning right and left, and everywhere sowed con-
sternation without reaping any appreciable result.
"One naturally expects thieves on these oc-
casions," said a little Chicago millionairess, "and if
I only wore my diamonds when no rogues were about,
I might as well have none. There are crooks iH
America I'd back against your Persian thief any
On the whole, I think, the best audience for my
dramatic recitation was provided by Mr. Chunder-
meyer, whom I found in the American bar, just
before the dinner hour. His yellow skin perceptibly
blanched at my first mention of Omar All Khan,
94 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
and one hand clutched at a bulging breast pockej
of the dinner-jacket he wore.
**Good heavens, Mr. Kernaby/' he said, **you
alarm me — you alarm me, sir ! * '
'*The reputation of Omar is not unknown to
**By no means unknown to me," he responded
in the thick, unctuous voice which betrayed the
Semitic strain in his pedigree. **It was this man
who stole the pair of blue diamonds from the Rajah
'*So I am told.''
**But have you been told that it was my firm
who bought those diamonds for the Rajah?'*
**No; that is news to me."
*'It was my firm, Mr. Kernaby, who negotiated
the sale of the blue diamonds to the Rajah; there-
fore the particulars of their loss, under most extra-
ordinary circumstances, are well known to me. You
have made me very nervous. Who is your in-
**A member of the native police with whom I am
acquainted. ' '
Mr. Chundermeyer shook his head lugubriously.
'*I am conveying a parcel of rough stones to
Amsterdam," he confessed, glancing warily about
him over the rims of his spectacles, ^*and I feel
very much disposed to ask for more reliable protec-
tion than is offered by your Egyptian friend."
**Why not lodge the stones in a bank, or in th»
OMAR OF ISPAHAN X
He shook his head again, and proffered an eno^
*<I distrust all safes but my own," he replied.
**I prefer to carry such valuables upon my person,
foolish though the plan may seem to you. But do
you observe that squarely built, military looking
person standing at the bar, in conversation with
M. Balabas, the manager!''
''Yes; an officer, I should judge."
''Precisely; a police officer. That is Chief In*
■pector Carlisle of New Scotland Yard."
"But he is a guest here."
"Certainly. The management sustained a severe
loss last Christmas during the progress of a ball at
which all Cairo was present, and as the inspector
chanced to be on his way home from India, where
official business had taken him, M. Balabas induced
him to break his journey and remain until after the
"Wait a moment," I said; "I will bring him
over, ' '
Crossing to the bar, I greeted Balabas, with whom
I was acquainted, and —
"Mr. Chundermeyer and I have been discussing
the notorious Omar of Ispahan, who is said to be
in Cairo," I remarked.
Inspector Carlisle, being introduced, smiled
"Mr. Balabas is very nervous about this Omar
man," he replied, with a slight Scottish accent:
**but, considering that everybody has been warned,
96 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
I don't see myself that lie can do mucli damage.''
** Perhaps you would be good enough to reassure
Mr. Chundermeyer/ ' I suggested, **who is carrying
Chief Inspector Carlisle walked over to the isible
at which Chundermeyer was seated.
*'I have met your partner, sir," he said, '*and I
gathered that you were on your way to Amsterdam
with a parcel of rough stones; in fact, I supposed
that you had arrived there by now. ' '
*'I am fond of Cairo during the Christmas sea-
son," explanied the other, **and I broke my journey.
But now I sincerely wish I were elsewhere."
"Oh, I shouldn't worry!" said the detective
cheerily. "There are enough of us on the look-
But Mr. Chundermeyer remained palpably uneasy.
The gardens of the hotel on the following night
presented a fairy-like spectacle. Lights concealed
among the flower-beds, the bloom-covered arbors,
and the feathery leafage of the acacias, su-ffused a
sort of weird glow, suggesting the presence of a
million fire-flies. Up beneath the crowns of the lofty
palms little colored electric lamps were set, produc-
ing an illusion of supernatural fruit, whilst the foun-
tain had been magically converted into a cascade
In the ball-room, where the orchestra played, and
OMAR OF ISPAHAN 97
a hundred mosque lamps bathed the apartment in
soft illumination, a cosmopolitan throng danced
around a giant Christmas tree, their costumes a
clash of color to have filled a theatrical producer
with horror, outraging history and linking the ages
in startling fashion. Thus, St. Antony of the
Thebaid danced with Salome, the luresome daughter
of Herodias; Nero's arm was about the waist of
Good Queen Bess; Charles 11 cantered through a
two-step with a red-haired Vestal Virgin; and the
Queen of Sheba (Daphne Collis) had no less appro-
priate a partner than Sherlock Holmes.
Doubtless it was all very amusing, but, personally,
I stand by my commonplace dress-suit, having, per-
haps, rather a ridiculous sense of dignity. Inspector
Carlisle also was soberly arrayed, and we had sev-
eral chats during the evening ; he struck me as being
a man of considerable culture and great shrewdness.
For Abu Tabah I looked in vain. Following our
conservation on the previous afternoon, he had
vanished like a figment of a dream. I several times
saw Chundermeyer, who had elected to disguise
himself as Al-Mokanna, the Veiled Prophet of
Khorassan. He seemed to be an enthusiastic dancer,
and there was no lack of partners.
But of these mandarins, pierrots, Dutch girls,
monks, and court ladies I speedily tired, and sought
refuge in the gardens, whose enchanted aspect was
completed by that wondrous inverted bowl, jewel-
studded, which is the nightly glory of Egypt. In
the floral, dim-lighted arbors many romantic couples
98 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
shrank from the peeping moon; but quiet and a
hushful sense of peace ruled there beneath the stars
more in harmony with my mood.
One corner of the gardens, in particular, seemed
to be quite deserted, and it was the most picturesque
spot of all. For here a graceful palm up stood before
an outjutting mushrabiyeJi window, dimly lighted,
over which trailed a wealth of bougainvillia blossom,
whilst beneath it lay a floral carpet, sharply bisected
by the shadow of the palm trunk. It was like some
gorgeous illustration to a poem by Hafiz, only lack-
ing the figure at the window.
And as I stood, enchanted, before the picture,
the central panels of the window were thrown open,
and, as if conjured up by my imagination, a woman
appeared, looking out into the gardens — an Oriental
woman, robed in shimmering, moon-kissed white,
and wearing a white yashmah. Her arms and fingers
were laden with glittering jewels.
I almost held my breath, drawing back into the
sheltering shadow, for I had not hitherto suspected
myself of being a sorcerer. For perhaps a minute,
or less, she stood looking out, then the window
closed, and the white phantom disappeared. I re-
covered myself, recognizing that T stood before the
isolated wing of the hotel known as the Harem
Suite, and that Fate had granted me a glimpse of
the daughter of the Mudir of the Fayum.
Recollecting, in the nick of time, an engagement
to dance with Lady Collis, I hurried back to the
ball-room. On its very threshold I encountered
OMAR OF ISPAHAN 99
Chnndermeyer. I could see his spectacles glitter-
ing through the veil of his ridiculous costume, and
even before he spoke I detected about him an aura
''Mr. Kemaby," he gasped, ''for Heaven's sake
help me to find Inspector Carlisle I I have been
"You don't mean "
"Find the inspector, and come to my rooms. I
am nearly mad!"
Daphne Collis, who had seen me enter, joined
us at this moment, and, overhearing the latter part
of Chnndermeyer 's speech:
"Oh, whatever is the matter?" she whispered
As for Chnndermeyer the effect upon him of her
sudden appearance was positively magical. He
stared through his veil as though her charming
figure had been that of some hideous phantom. Then
slowly, as if he dreaded to find her intangible, he
extended one hand and touched her rope of pearls.
"Ah, heavens!" he gasped. "I am really going
!mad, or is there a magician amongst us?"
Daphne Collis 's blue eyes opened very widely, and
the color slowly faded from her cheeks.
"Mr. Chundermeyer, " she began. But —
"Let us go into this little recess, where there is
a good light," mumbled Chundermeyer shakily, "and
I will make sure. ' '
The three of us entered the palm-screened alcove^
100 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
Chundermeyer leading. He stood immediately tuider
a lamp suspended by brass chains from the roof.
** Permit me to examine your pearls for one mo-
ment/' he said.
Her hands trembling, Daphne Collis took off the
costly ornament and placed it in the hands of the
greatly perturbed expert. Chundermeyer ran the
pearls through his fingers, then lifted the largest
of the set towards the light and scrutinized it closely.
Suddenly he dropped his arms, and extended the
necklace upon one open palm.
^^Look for yourself, '' he said slowly. **It does
not require the eyes of an expert."
Daphne Collis snatched the pearls and stared at
Ihem dazedly. Her pretty face was now quite
**This is not my rope of pearls,'' she said, in a
monotonous voice; ^4t is a very poor imitation 1"
Ere I could frame any kind of speech —
**Look at this," groaned Chundermeyer, *'as you
talk of a poor imitation!"
He was holding out a leather-covered box, plush>
lined, and bearing within the words, ** Isaacs and
Chundermeyer, Madras." Nestling grotesquely
amid the blue velvet were six small pieces of coal !
Chundermeyer sank upon the cushions of thi>
settee, tossing the casket upon a little coffee table.
* * I am afraid I feel unwell, ' ' he said feebly. * * Mr.
Kernaby, I wonder if you would be so kind as to
find Inspector Carlisle, and ask a waiter to bring
me some cognac."
OMAR OF ISPAHAN 101
*'0h, what shall I do, what shall I doT' whispered
poor Daphne Collis.
** Just remain here/' I said soothingly, **with Mr.
Chundermeyer." And I induced her to sit in a big
cane rest-chair. **I will return in a moment with
Bertram and the inspector. ' '
Desiring to avoid a panic, I walked quietly into
the ball-room and took stock of the dancers, for a
waltz was in progress. The inspectoral could not
see, but Sir Bertram I observed at the further end
of the floor, dancing with Mrs. Van Heysten, the
Chicago lady whom I had warned to keep a close
watch upon her diamonds.
I managed to attract Collis 's attention, and the
pair, quitting the floor, joined me where I stood.
A few words sufliced in which to inform them of
the catastrophe, and, pointing out the alcove wherein
I had left Chundermeyer and Lady Collis, I set off
in search of Inspector Carlisle.
Ten minutes later, having visited every likely spot,
I came to the conclusion that he was not in the
hotel, and with M. Balabas I returned to the alcove
adjoining the ball-room. Dancing was in full swing,
and I thought as we passed along the edge of the
floor how easily I could have checked the festivities
by announcing that Omar of Ispahan was present.
The first sight to greet me upon entering the
little palm-shaded alcove was that of Mrs. Van
Heysten in tears. She had discovered herself to be
wearing a very indifferent duplicate of her famous
102 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
I think it was my action of sootMngly patting
her upon the shoulder that drew Chundermeyer's
attention to my Hatshepsu scarab.
**Mr. Kernabyl'' he cried— *' Mr. Kemahy!"
And pointed to my finger.
I had had the scarab set in a revolving bezel,
and habitually wore it with the beetle nppermost
and the cartouche concealed. As I glanced down
at the ring, Chundermeyer stretched out his hand
and detached it from my finger. Approaching the
light, he turned the bezel.
The flat part of the scarab was quite blank, bear-
ing no inscription whatever. Like Lady Collis 's rope
of pearls, Mrs. Van Heysten's tiara, and Chunder-
meyer 's diamonds, it was a worthless and very in-
different duplicate I
Never can I forget the scene in that crowded little
room — ^poor M. Balabas all anxiety respecting the
reputation of his establishment, and vainly endeavor-
ing to reason with the victims of the amazing Omar
**I will search for Inspector Carlisle myself,'' said
Mr. Chundermeyer; '*and if I cannot find him, I
shall be compelled to communicate with the local
M. Balabas still volubly protesting, the unfor-
tunate Veiled Prophet made his way from the alcove.
I cannot say if the inspiration came as the result
OMAR OF ISPAHAN 103
of a sort of auto-hypnosis induced by staring at the
worthless ring in my hand — the stone was not even
real lapis-lazuli— but a theory regarding the manner
in which these ingenious substitutions had been
effected suddenly entered my mind.
Three minutes later I was knocking at the door
of Chundermeyer's room. I received no invitation
to enter, and the door was locked. I sought M.
Balabas; and, without confiding to him the theory
upon which I was acting, I urged the desirability
of gaining access to the apartment. As a result, a
master key was procured, and we entered.
At the first glance the room seemed to be empty,
though it showed evidence of having recently been
pccupied, for it was in the utmost disorder. Perhaps
we should have quitted it unenlightened, if I had
not detected the sound of a faint groan proceeding
from the closed wardrobe. Stepping across the
room, I opened the double doors, and out into my
arms fell a limp figure, bound hand and foot, and
having a bath-towel secured tightly around the head
to act as a gag. It was Mr. Chundermeyer I
I think, as I helped to unfasten him, I was the
most surprised man in the land of Egypt. He was
arrayed only in a bath-robe and slippers, and his
bare wrists and ankles were cruelly galled by the
cords which had bound him. For some minutes
he was unable to utter a word, and when at last
he achieved speech, his first utterance constituted a
**I have been robbed I" he cried huskily, **I was
104 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
sand-bagged as I came from my bath, and look— ^
everyone of my cases is gone!"
It was M. Balabas who answered him.
*'As you returned from your hath, Mr. Chunder-
meyer ? " he said. * * At what time was that ? ' ' .
** About a quarter-past seven," was the amazing
**But, good Heaven!" cried M. Balabas, ^*I was
speaking to you less than ten minutes ago !"
**You are mad!" groaned Chundermeyer, rubbing
his bruised wrists. ^^Have I not been locked in the
wardrobe all night ! ' '
**Ah, merciful saints," cried \l. Balabas, dramati-
cally raising his clenched fists to heaven, **I see it
all! You understand, Mr. Kemaby. It is not Mr.
Chundermeyer with whom we have been conversing,
in whose hands you have been placing your valuables,
it is that devil incarnate who three years ago im-
personated the Emir al-Hadj, in order to steal the
Holy Carpet ; who can impersonate anyone ; who, it
is said, can transform himself at will into an old
woman, a camel, or a fig tree ; it is the conjuror, the
wizard — Omar of Ispahan!"
My own ideas were almost equally chaotic; for
although, as I now recalled, I had never throughout
the evening obtained a thoroughly good view of the!
features of the veiled Prophet, I could have sworn
to the voice, to the carriage, to the manner of Mr.
The puzzling absence of Chief Inspector Carlisle
now engaged everybody's attention ; and, acting upon
OMAR OF ISPAHAN 105
the precedent afforded by the finding of Mr. Chnnder-
meyer, we paid a visit to the detective's room.
Inspector Carlisle, fully dressed, and still wearing
a soft felt hat, as though he had but just come in, lay
on the floor, unconscious, with the greater part of
a cigar, which examination showed to be drugged,
close beside him.
As I entered my room that night and switched
on the light, in through the open window from the
balcony stepped Abu Tabah.
His frequent and mysterious appearances in my
private apartments did not surprise me in the least,
anjd I had even ceased to wonder how he accom-
plished them ; but —
**You are too late, my friend," I said. ''Olnar
of Ispahan has outwitted you."
*'Omar of Ispahan has outwitted men wiser than
I," he replied gravely; **but covetousness is a
treacherous master, and I am not without hope that
we may yet circumvent the father of thieves."
*'You are surely jesting," I replied. **In all
probability he is now far from Cairo."
**I, on the contrary, have reason to believe," re-
plied Abu Tabah calmly, **that he is neither far
from Cairo, far from the hotel, nor far from this
His manner was strange and I discoverd excite-
ment to be growing within me.
** Accompany me on the balcony," he said; **but
first extinguish the light"
106 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
A moment later I stood looking down upon the
moon-bathed gardens, and Abn Tabah, beside me,
stretched out his hand.
**Yon see the projecting portion of the building
'*Yes," I replied; *'the Harem Suite.''
** Immediately before the window there is a palm
tree. ' '
**I have observed if
**And upon the opposite side of the path there
is an acacia."
'*Yes; I see iV
**The moon is high, and whilst all the side of the
hotel is in shadow the acacia is in the moonlight.
Its branches would afford concealment, however;
and one watching there could see what would be
hidden from one on this balcony 7 request you,
Keniaby Pasha, to approach that lehhehh tree from
the further side of the fountain, in order to remain
invisible from the hotel. Climb to one of the lower
branches, and closely watch four windows. ' '
I stared at him in the darkness.
** Which are the four windows that I am to
**They are — one, that immediately below your
own ; two, that to the right of it ; three, the ^vdndow
above the Harem Suite ; and, four, the extreme east
window of this wing, on the first floor."
Now, my state of mystification grew even denser.
For the windows specified were, in the order of
mention, that of Inspector Carlisle, who had not
OMAR OP ISPAHAlSr 107
yet recovered consciousness; of Mr. Chnixdermeyer;
of Major Redpath, a retired Anglo-Indian who had
been confined to his room for some time with an
attack of malaria ; and of M. Balabas, the manager.
**For what,'* I inquired, **am I to watch?"
**For a man to descend."
**You will hold yonr open watch case where it is
clearly visible from this spot. Instant upon the
man's appearance you will cover it up, and then
uncover it, either once, twice, thrice, or four times."
'* After which?"
** Remain scrupulously concealed. Have the
collar of your dinner jacket turned up in order to
betray as little whiteness as possible. Do not inter-
fere with the man who descends; but if he enters
the Harem Suite, see that he does not come out
again I There is no time for further explanation,
Kernaby Pasha; it is Omar of Ispahan with whom
we have to deal I"
Perched up amid the foliage of the acacia, I com-
menced that singular guard imposed upon me by
Abu Tabah. Did he suspect one of these four per-
sons of being the notorious Omar? Or had his
mysterious instructions some other significance?
The problem defied me ; and, recognizing that I was
hopelessly at sea, I abandoned useless conjecture
and merely watched.
108 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
Nor was my vigil a long one. I doubt if I had
been at my post for ten minutes ere a vague figure
appeared upon the shadow-veiled balcony of one
of the suspected windows — that of Major Redpath,
above the Harem Suite !
Scarcely daring to credit my eyes, I saw the
figure throw down on to the projecting top of the
mushrabiyeh window below a slender rope ladder.
I covered the gleaming gold of my watch-case with
my hand, and gave the signal — three.
The spirit of phantasy embraced me; and, un-
moved to further surprise, I watched the unknown
swarm down the ladder with the agility of an ape.
He seemed to wear a robe, surely that of the Veiled
Prophet! He silently manipulated one of the side-
panels of the window, opened it, and vanished within
the Harem Suite.
Raising my eyes, I beheld a second figure — that
of Abu Tabah — descending a similar ladder to the
balcony of Inspector Carlisle's room. He gained
the balcony and entered the room. Four seconds
elapsed; he reappeared, unfurled a greater length
of ladder, and came down to the flower-beds. Lithely
as a cat he came to the projecting mushrabiyeh.
swung himself aloft, and as I watched breathlessly,
expecting him to enter in pursuit of the intruder,
climbed to the top and began to mount the ladder
descending from Alajor Redpath's room!
He had just reached the major's balcony, and
was stepping through the open window, when a most
alarming din arose in the Harem Suite; evidently a
OMAR OF ISPAHAN 109
fierce struggle was proceeding in the apartments of
the Mudir's daughter!
I scrambled down from the acacia and ran to the
spot immediately below the window, arriving at the
very moment that the central lattice was thrown
open, and a white-veiled figure appeared there and
prepared to spring down ! Perceiving my approach :
**0h, help me, in the name of Allah!'* cried the
woman, in a voice shrill with fear. ** Quick — catch
Ere I could frame any reply, she clutched at the
palm tree and dropped down right into my extended
arms, as a crashing of overturned furniture came
from the room above.
**Help them!" she entreated. **You are armed,
and my women are being murdered. ' '
**Help, Kernaby Pasha!" now reached my ears,
in the unmistakable voice of Abu Tabah, from some-
where within. ^'See that he does not escape from
*' Coming!" I cried.
And, by means of the palm trunk, I began to
mount towards the open lattice.
Gaining my objective, I stumbled into a room
which presented a scene of the wildest disorder. It
was a large apartment, well but sparsely furnished
in the Eastern manner, and lighted by three hanging
lamps. Directly under one of these, beside an over-
turned cabinet of richly carven wood inlaid with
mo ther-o '-pearl, lay a Nubian, insensible, and
arrayed only in shirt and trousers. There was no
110 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
one else in the room, and, not pansing to explore
those which opened out of it, I ran and unbolted
the heavy door upon which Abu Tabah was clamor-
ing for admittance.
The imam leaped into the room, rebolted the door,
and glanced to the right and left; then he ran
into the adjoining apartments, and finally, observ-
ing the insensible Nubian upon the floor, he stared
into my face, and I read anger in the eyes that were
wont to be so gentle.
**Did T not enjoin you to prevent his escape from
the window?'* he cried.
*'No one escaped from the window, my friend,"
I retorted, ** except the lady who was occupying
Abu Tabah fixed his weird eyes upon me in a
hypnotic stare of such uncanny power that I was
angrily conscious of much difficulty in sustaining it ;
but gradually the quelling look grew less harsh,
and finally his whole expression softened, and that
sweet smile, which could so transform his face, dis-
turbed the severity of the set lips.
* * No man is infallible, ' ' he said. ^ * And wiser than
you or I have shown themselves the veriest fools
in contest with Omar Ali Khan. But know, O
Kernaby Pasha, that the lady who occupied this
suite secretly left it at sunset to-night, bearing her
jewels with her, and he" — pointing to the insensible
Nubian on the floor — *Hook her place and wore her
''Then the Mudir's daughter "
OMAR OF ISPAHAN 111
**Is my sister Ayeshal'*
I looked at him reproachfully, but he met my gaze
with calm pride.
'* Subterfuge was permitted by the Prophet, (on
whom be peace),'' he continued; **but not lying!
My sister is the daughter of the Mudir el-
/"ayum. ' '
It was a rebuke, perhaps a merited one; and 1
accepted it in silence. Although, from the moment
that I had first set eyes on him, I had never doubted
Abu Tabah to be a man of good family, this modest
avowal was something of a revelation.
**Her presence here, which was permitted by my
father,'' he said, **was a trap; for it is well known
throughout the Moslem world that she is the pos-
sessor of costly ornaments. The trap succeeded.
Omar of Ispahan, at great risk of discovery, re-
mained to steal her jewels, although he had already
amassed a choice collection."
Someone had begun to bang upon the bolted door,
and there was an excited crowd beneath the window.
'*You supposed, no doubt," the imam resumed
calmly, **that I suspected Major Redpath and M,
Balabas, as well as Mr. Chundermeyer and the
English detective? It was not so. But I regarded
the room of M. Balabas as excellently situated for
Omar's purpose, and I knew that M. Balabas rarely
retired earlier than one o'clock. Even more suitable
was that of Major Redpath, whose illness I believe to
have been due to some secret art of Omar's."
**But he is down with chronic malaria!"
112 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
*^It may even be so; yet I believe the attack to
have been induced by Omar of Ispahan.''
'^Because, as I learned to-night, Major Bedpath
is the only person in Cairo who has ever met- Mr.
Chundermeyer ! I will confess that until less than
an hour ago I did not know if Inspector Carlisle
was really an inspector! Oh, it is a seeming ab-
surdity; but Omar of Ispahan is a wizard! There-
fore I entered the inspector's room, and found him
to be still unconscious. Major Redpath was in deep
slumber, and Omar had entered and quitted his
room without disturbing him. I did likewise, and
visited Mr. Chundermeyer 's — the door was ajar —
©n my way downstairs."
**But, my friend," I said amazedly, ''with my
own eyes I beheld Mr. Chundermyer gagged and
bound in his wardrobe ! I saw his bruised wrists ! ' '
"He gae^fired, bound, and bruised himself!"
replied Abu Tabah calmly. "With my own eyes
I once beheld a blind mendicant hanging by the neck
from a fig tree, a bloody froth upon his lips. I cut
him down and left him for dead. Yet was he neither
dead nor a blind mendicant ; he was Omar Ali Khan/
Oblige me by opening the door, Kemaby Pasha."
I obeyed, and an excited throng burst in, headed
by M. Balabas and Inspector Carlisle, the latter
looking very pale and haggard !
"Where is the man posing as Chundermeyer?"
besran the detective hoarsely. "By sheer sleight*
of -hand, and under ye 're very noses" — excitement
OMAR OF ISPAHAN 113
rendered him weirdly Caledonian — **he has robbed
ye! I cabled Madras to-day, and the real Chunder-
meyer arrived at Amsterdam last Friday! As I
returned with the reply cable in my pocket to-night
I became so dizzy I was only jnst able to get to my
room. He'd doctored every smoke in my case!
Where is he?"
**I assisted him to escape, disguised as a woman,
some ten minutes ago,'' I replied feebly. **I should
be sincerely indebted to you if you would kick me."
'* Escaped!" roared Inspector Carlisle. **Then
what are ye doing here! Pursue him, somebody!
Are ye all mad?"
'*We should be," said Abu Tabah, ^Ho attempt
pursuit. A^ well pursue the shadow of a cloud, the
first spear of sunrise, or the phantom heifer of Pepi-
Ankh, as pursue Omar of Ispahan! He is gone —
but empty-handed. Behold what I recovered from
*Mr. Chundermeyer's' room."
From beneath his black gihheh he took out a
leather bag, opened it, and displayed to our startled
eyes the tiara of Mrs. Van Heysten, the rope of
pearls, and — ^my Hatshepsu scarab !
Ere anyone could utter a word, Abu Tabah in-
clined his head in dignified salutation, turned, and
walked stately from the room.
BREATH OF ALLAH
FOR close upon a week I had been haunting
the purlieus of the Muski, attired as a respect-
able dragoman, my face and hands reduced to
a deeper shade of brown by means of a water-color
paint (I had to use something that could be washed
off and grease-paint is useless for purposes of actual
disguise) and a neat black moustache fixed to my lip
with spirit-gum. In his story Beyond the Pale,
Rudyard Kipling has trounced the man who inquires
too deeply into native life ; but if everybody thought
with Kipling we should never have had a Lane or a
Burton and I should have continued in unbroken
scepticism regarding the reality of magic. "Whereas,
because of the matters which I am about to set forth,
for ten minutes of my life I found myself a trembling
slave of the unknown.
Let me explain at once that my undignified mas-
querade was not prompted by mere curiosity or the
quest of the pomegranate, it was undertaken as the
natural sequel to a letter received from Messrs.
Moses, Murphy and Co., the firm which I represented
in Egypt, containing curious matters affording much
food for reflection. **We would ask you," ran the
communication, **to renew your inquiries into the
BREATH OF ALLAH U5
partciular compositoin of the perfume 'Breath of
Allah,' of which you obtained us a sample at a cost
which we regarded as excessive. It appears to con-
sist in the blending of certain obscure essential oils
and gum-resins ; and the nature of some of these has
defied analysis to date. Over a hundred experi-
ments have been made to discover substitutes for
the missing essences, but without success ; and as we
are now in a position to arrange for the manufacture
of Oriental perfume on an extensive scale we
should be prepared to make it well worth your while
(the last four words characteristically underlined
in red ink) if you could obtain for us a correct
copy of the original prescription."
The letter went on to say that it was proposed
to establish a separate company for the exploita-
tion of the new perfume, with a registered address
in Cairo and a ** manufactory" in some suitably
inaccessible spot in the Near East.
I pondered deeply over these matters. The scheme
was a good one and could not fail to reap consider-
able profits; for, given extensive advertising, there
is always a large and monied public for a new smelL
The particular blend of liquid fragrance to which the
letter referred was assured of a good sale at a high
price, not alone in Egypt, but throughout the capitals
of the world, provided it could be put upon the
market; but the proposition of manufacture was
beset with extraordinary difficulties.
The tiny vial which I had despatched to Birming-
ham nearly twelve months before had cost me close
116 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
upon £100 to procure, for the reason that ** Breath
of Allah" was the secret property of an old and
aristocratic Egyptian family whose great wealth and
exclusiveness rendered them unapproachable. By
dint of diligent inquiry I had discovered the attar
to whom was entrusted certain final processes in
the preparation of the perfume — only to learn that
he was ignorant of its exact composition. But al-
though he had assured me (and I did not doubt
his word) that not one grain had hitherto passed
out of the possession of the family, I had succeeded
in procurins: a small quantity of the precious fluid.
Messrs. Moses, Murphy and Co. had made all the
necessary arrangements for placing it upon the
market, only to learn, as this eventful letter advised
me, that the most skilled chemists whose services
were obtainable had failed to analyse it.
One morning, then, in my assumed character, J
was proceeding along the Sharia el-Hamzawi seek-
ing for some scheme whereby I might win the con-
fidence of Mohammed er-Rahman the attar, or per-
fumer. I had quitted the house in the Darb el-Ahmar
which was my base of operations but a few minutes
earlier, and as I approached the corner of the street
a voice called from a window directly above my
head: *^Said! Said!"
Without supposing that the call referred to my-
self, I glanced up, and met the gaze of an old Egyp-
tian of respectable appearance who was regarding
me from above. Shading his eyes with a gnarled
BREATH OF ALLAH 117
** Surely," he cried, *'it is none other than Said
the nephew of Yiissuf Khalig! Es-seldm 'aleykum,
''AleyMm, es-seldm/' I replied, and stood there
looking Tip at him.
*' Would you perform a little service for ine,
Sai'd?'' he continued. '*It will occupy you but an
hour and you may earn ^ve piastres."
'* Willingly," I replied, not knowing to what the
mistake of this evidently half-blind old man might
I entered the door and mounted the stairs to the
room in which he was, to find that he lay upon a
scantily covered diwan by the open window.
''Praise be to Allah (whose name be exalted) !"
he exclaimed, ''that I am thus fortunately enabled
to fulfil my obligations. I sometimes suffer from
an old serpent bite, my son, and this morning it
has obliged me to abstain from all movement. I am
called Abdul the Porter, of whom you will have
heard your uncle speak; and although I have long
retired from active labor myself, I contract for the
supply of porters and carriers of all descriptions
and for all purposes; conveying fair ladies to the
hammdm, youth to the bridal, and death to the
grave. Now, it was written that you should arrive
at this timely hour."
I considered it highly probable that it was also
written how I should shortly depart if this garrulous
old man continued to inflict upon me details of his
absurd career. However —
118 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
I have a contract with the merchant, Mohammed
er-Rahman of the Suk el- Attarin, ' ' he continued,
*' which it has always been my custom personally to
The words almost caused me to catch my breath ;
and my opinion of Abdul the Porter changed extra-
ordinary. Truly my lucky star had guided my foot-
steps that morning I
''Do not misunderstand me/' he added. *'I refer
not to the transport of his wares to Suez, to Zagazig,
to Mecca, to Aleppo, to Baghdad, Damascus, Kan-
dahar, and Pekin; although the whole of these vast
enterprises is entrusted to none other than the only
son of my father: I speak, now, of the bearing of a
small though heavy box from the great magazine and
manufactory of Mohammed er-Rahman at Shubra,
to his shop in the Suk el-Attarin, a matter which I
have arranged for him on the eve of the Molid en-
Nebi (birthday of the Prophet) for the past ^ve-
and-thirty years. Every one of my porters to whom
I might entrust this special charge is otherwise em-
ployed; hence my observation that it was written
how none other than yourself should pass beneath
this window at a certain fortunate hour.'*
Fortunate indeed had that hour been for me, and
my pulse beat far from normally as I put the ques-
tion : * * Why, Father Abdul, do you attach so much
importance to this seemingly trivial matter?"
The face of Abdul the Porter, which resembled
that of an intelligent mule, assumed an expression
of low cunninar.
BREATH OF ALLAH 119
'*The question is well conceived," lie said, raising
a long forefinger and wagging it at me. **And who
in all Cairo knows so much of the secrets of the
great as Abdul the Know-all, Abdul the Taciturn I
Ask me of the fabled wealth of Karafa Bey and I
will name you every one of his possessions and
entertain you with a calculation of his income, which
I have worked out in nuss-faddah!* Ask me of the
amber mole upon the shoulder of the Princess Aziza
and I will describe it to you in such a manner as to
ravish your soul! Whisper, my son" — ^he bent to-
wards me confidentially — ''once a year the merchant
Mohammed er-Rahman prepares for the Lady
Zuleyka a quantity of the perfume which impious
tradition has called 'Breath of Allah.' The father
of Mohammed er-Rahman prepared it for the mother
of the Lady Zuleyka and his father before him for
the lady of that day who held the secret — ^the secret
which has belonged to the women of this family since
the reign of the Khalif el-Hakim from whose favorite
wife they are descended. To her, the wife of the
Khalif, the first dirJiem (drachm) ever distilled of
the perfume was presented in a gold vase, together
with the manner of its preparation, by the great
wizard and physician Ibn Sina of Bokhara"
"You are well called Abdul the Know-all I" I
cried in admiration. "Then the secret is held by
"Not so, my son," replied AbduL "Certain of
• A n<i88-faddah equals a quarter of a farthing.
120 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
the essences employed are brought, in sealed vessels,
from the house of the Lady Zuleyka, as is also the
brass coffer containing the writing of Ibn Sina ; and
throughout the measuring of the quantities, the
secret writing never leaves her hand.''
**What, the Lady Zuelyka attends in person!''
Abdul the Porter inclined his head serenely.
*^0n the eve of the birthday of the Prophet, the
Lady Zuelyka visits the shop of Mohammed er-
Eahman, accompanied by an imam from one of the
**Why by an imam, Father Abdul T'
** There is a magical ritual which must be observed
in the distillation of the perfume, and each essence
is blessed in the name of one of the four archangels;
and the whole operation must commence at the hour
of midnight on the eve of the Molid en-Nebi."
He peered at me triumphantly.
** Surely," I protested, **an experienced attar such
as Mohammed er-Rahman would readily recognize
these secret ingredients by their smell?"
**A great pan of burning charcoal," whispered
Abdul dramatically, * * is placed upon the floor of the
room, and throughout the operation the attendant
imam casts pungent spices upon it, whereby the
nature of the secret essences is rendered unrecog-
nizable. It is time you depart, my son, to the shop
of Mohammed, and I will give you a writing making
you known to him. Your task will be to carry the
materials necessary for the secret operation (which
takes place to-night) from the inagazine of
BREATH OF ALIiAH 121
Mohammed er-Rahman at Shubra, to his shop in the
Suk el-Attarin. My eyesight is far from good, Said.
Do you write as I direct and I will place my name to
The words *'well worth your while" had kept
time to my steps, or I doubt if I should have sur-
vived the odious journey from Shubra. Never can
I forget the shape, color, and especially the weight,
of the locked chest which was my burden. Old
Mohammed er-Rahman had accepted my service on
the strength of the letter signed by Abdul, and of
course, had failed to recognize in ^*Said'' that Hon.
Neville Kernaby who had certain confidential deal-
ings with him a year before. But exactly how I was
to profit by the fortunate accident which had led
Abdul to mistake me for someone called **Said''
became more and more obscure as the box grew
more and more heavy. So that by the time that I
actually arrived with my burden at the entrance to
the Street of the Perfumers, my heart had hardened
towards Abdul the Know-all; and, setting my box
upon the ground, I seated myself upon it to rest and
to imprecate at leisure that silent cause of my
After a time my troubled spirit grew calmer, as I
sat there inhaling the insidious breath of Tonquin
musk, the fragrance of attar of roses, the sweetness
of Indian spikenard and the stinging pungency of
122 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
myrrli, opoponax ,and Mang-ylang. Faintly I could
detect the perfume which I have always coniited
the most exquisite of all save one — that delightful
preparation of Jasmine peculiarly Egyptian. But
the mystic breath of frankincense and erotic fumes
of ambergris alike left me unmoved ; for amid these
odors, through which it has always seemed to me that
that of cedar runs thematically, I sought in vain for
any hint of ** Breath of Allah."
Fashionable Europe and America were well repre.
sented as usual in the Suk el-Attarin, but the little
shop of Mohammed er-Rahman was quite deserted,
although he dealt in the most rare essences of all.
Mohammed, however, did not seek Western patron-
age, nor was there in the heart of the little white-
bearded merchant any envy of his seemingly more
prosperous neighbors in whose shops New York,
London, and Paris smoked amber-scented cigarettes,
and whose wares were carried to the uttermost cor-
ners of the earth. There is nothing more illusory
than the outward seeming of the Eastern merchant.
The wealthiest man with whom I was acquainted in
the Muski had the aspect of a mendicant ; and whilst
Mohammed's neighbors sold phials of essence and
tiny boxes of pastilles to the patrons of Messrs.
Cook, were not the silent caravans following the
ancient desert routes laden with great crates ot
sweet merchandise from the manufactory at Shubraf
To the city of Mecca alone Mohammed sent annually
perfumes to the value of two thousand pounds ster-
ling; he manufactured three kinds of incense ex-
BREATH OF ALLAH 123
olusively for the royal house of Persia ; and his wares
were known from Alexandria to Kashmir, and prized
alike in Stambul and Tartary. Well might he watxjh
with tolerant smile the more showy activities of his
less fortunate competitors.
The shop of Mohammed er-Rahman was at the
end of the street remote from the Hamzawi (Cloth
Bazaar), and as I stood up to resume my labors
my mood of gloomy abstraction was changed as
much by a certain atmosphere of expectancy — I can*
not otherwise describe it — as by the familiar smells
of the place. I had taken no more than three paces
onward into the Sak ere it seemed to me that all
business had suddenly become suspended; only the
Western element of the throng remained outside
whatever influence had claimed the Orientals. Then
presently the visitors, also becoming awar« of this
expectant hush as I had become aware of it, turned
almost with one accord, and following the direction
of the merchants' glances, gazed up the narrow
etreet towards the Mosque of el-Ashraf .
And here I must chronicle a curious circumstance.
Of the Imam Abu Tabah I had seen nothing for
several weeks, but at this moment I suddenly found
myself thinking of that remarkable man. Whilst
any mention of his name, or nickname — for I could
not believe ** Tabah '^ to be patronymic — amongst
the natives led only to pious ejaculations indicative
of respectful fear, by the official v/orld he was tacitly
disowned. Yet I had indisputable evidence to show
that few doors in Cairo, or indeed in all Egypt, were
124 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
closed to him; he came and went like a phantom.
I should never have been surprised, on entering my
private apartments at Shepheard's, to have found
him seated therein, nor did I question the veracity
of a native acquaintance who assured me that he. had
met the mysterious imam in Aleppo on the same
morning that a letter from his partner in Cairo had
arrived mentioning a visit by Abu Tabah to el-Azhar.
But throughout the native city he was known as the
Magician and was very generally regarded as a
master of the ginn. Once more depositing my burden
upon the ground, then, I gazed with the rest in the
direction of the mosque.
It was curious, that moment of perfumed silence,
and my imagination, doubtless inspired by the mem-
ory of Abu Tabah, was carried back to the days of
the great Jchalifs, which never seem far removed
from one in those mediaeval streets. I was trans-
ported to the Cairo of Harun al Raschid, and I
thought that the Grand Wazir on some mission from
Baghdad was visiting the Suk el-Attarin.
Then, stately through the silent group, came a
black-robed, white-turbaned figure outwardly similar
to many others in the bazaar, but followed by two
tall muffled negroes. So still was the place that I
could hear the tap of his ebony stick as he strode
along the centre of the street.
At the shop of Mohammed er-Rahman he paused,
exchanging a few words with the merchant, then
resumed his way, coming down the Suk towards
me. His glanc<^ met mine, as I stood there beside
BREATH OF ATJ.AH 125
the box ; and, to my amazement, he saluted me with
smiling dignity and passed on. Had he, too, mis-
taken me for Said — or had his all-seeing gaze
detected beneath my disguise the features of Nevilk
As he turned out of the narrow street into the
Hamzawi, the commercial uproar was resumed in-
stantly, so that save for this horrible doubt which
had set my heart beating with uncomfortable rapidi-
ty, by all the evidences now about me his coming
might have been a dream.
Pilled with misgivings, I carried the box along
to the shop; but Mohammed er-Rahman's greeting
held no hint of suspicion.
'*By fleetness of foot thou shalt never win Para-
dise,'* he said.
**Nor by unseemly haste shall I thrust others from
the path,'' I retorted.
**It is idle to bandy words with any acquaintance
of Abdul the Porter's," sighed Mohammed; **well
do I know it. Take up the box and follow me."
With a key which he carried attached to a chaia
about his waist, he unlocked the ancient door which
alone divided his shop from the out jutting wall mark-
ing a bend in the street. A native shop is usually
no::hing more than a double cell; but descending
three stone steps, I found myself in one of those
cellar-like apartments which are not uncommon in
this part of Cairo. Windows there were none, if I
126 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
except a small square opening, high up in one of the
walls, which evidently communicated with the narrow
courtyard separating Mohammed's establishmeni
from that of his neighbor, but which admitted scanty
light and less ventilation. Through this opening I
could see what looked like the uplifted shafts of a
cart. From one of the rough beams of the rather
lofty ceiling a brass lamp hung by chains, and a
quantity of primitive chemical paraphernalia littered
the place; old-fashioned alembics, mysterious look-
ing: jars, and a sort of portable furnace, together
with several tripods and a number of large, flat brass
pans gave the place the appearance of some old
alchemist's den. A rather handsome ebony table,
intricately carved and inlaid with mother-o '-pearl
and ivory, stood before a cushioned dhvan which
occupied that side of the room in which was the
*^Set the box upon the floor," directed Mohammed,
^*but not with, such undue dispatch as to cause thy-
self to sustain an injury."
That he had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of
the box and was now bumingly anxious to witness
tny departure, grew more and more apparent with
every word. Therefore —
** There are asses who are fleet of foot," I said,
leisurely depositing my load at his feet; **but the
wise man regulateth his pace in accordance with
three things: the heat of the sun; the welfare of
others ; and the nature of his burden. ' '
**That thou hast frequently paused on the way
BREATH OF ALLAH 12t
from Shnbra to relSect upon these three things,"
replied Mohammed, '*I cannot doubt; depart, ther^-
fore, and ponder them at leisure, for I perceive that
thon art a great philosopher."
** Philosophy," I continued, seating myself upon
the box, '^sustaineth the mind, but the activity of
the mind being dependent upon the welfare of the
stomach, even the philosopher cannot afford to labor
At that, Mohammed er-Rahman unloosed upon me
a long pent-up torrent of invective — and furnished
me with the information which I was seeking.
**0 son of a wall-eyed mule!" he cried, shaking
his fists over me, **no longer will I suffer thy idiotic
chatter ! Return to Abdul the Porter, who employed
thee, for not one faddah will I give thee, calamitous
mongrel that thou art ! Depart ! for I was but this
moment informed that a lady of high station is about
to visit me. Depart I lest she mistake my shop for
But even as he spoke the words, I became aware
of a vague disturbance in the street, and —
**Ah!" cried Mohammed, running to the foot of
the steps and gazing upwards, **now am I utterly
undone! Shame of thy parents that thou art, it
is now unavoidable that the Lady Zuleyka shall find
thee in my shop. Listen, offensive insect — thou art
Sa'id, my assistant. Utter not one word; or with
this" — ^to my great alarm he produced a dangerous-
looking pistol from beneath his robe — **will I bloir
a hole through thy vacuous skull!"
138 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
Hastily concealing the pistol, he went hurrying up
the steps, in time to perform a low salutation before
a veiled woman who was accompanied by a Sudanese
servant-girl and a negro. Exchanging some words
with her which I was unable to detect, Mohammed
er-Bahman led the way down into the apartment
wherein I stood, followed by the lady, who in turn
was followed by her servant The negro remained
above. Perceiving me as she entered, the lady, who
was attired with extraordinary elegance, paused,
glancing at Mohammed.
**My lady,'* he began immediately, bowing before
her, *4t is Said my assistant, the slothfulness of
whose habits is only exceeded by the impudence of
She hesitated, bestowing upon me a glance of her
beautiful eyes. Despite the gloom of the place and
the yashmak which she wore, it was manifest that
she was good to look upon. A faint but exquisite
perfume stole to my nostrils, whereby I knew that
Mohammed's charming visitor was none other than
the Lady Zuleyka.
**Yet," she said softly, *^he hath the look of an
active young man. ' '
**His activity," replied the scent merchant,
*'resideth entirely in his tongue."
The Lady Zuleyka seated herself upon the diwan,
looking all about the apartment.
'^Everything is in readiness, Mohammed?" i^e
"Everything, my lady."
BREATH OF ALLAH 129
Again the beautiful eyes were turned in my direc-
tion, and, as their inscrutable gaze rested upon me,
a scheme — ^which, since it was never carried out,
need not be described — ^presented itself to my mind.
Following a brief but eloquent silence — for my an-
gw^ering glances were laden with significance : —
**0 Mohammed, '* said the Lady Zuleyka indolent-
ly, **in what manner doth a merchant, such as thy-
self, chastise his servants when their conduct
Mohammed er-Rahman seemed somewhat at a loss
for a reply, and stood there staring foolishly.
**I have whips for mine,*' murmured the soft
Toioe. **It is an old custom of my family."
Slowly she cast her eyes in my direction once
**It seemed to me, Said," she continued, grace-
fully resting one jeweled hand upon the ebony table,
**that thou hadst presumed to cast love-glances upon
me. There is one waiting above whose duty it is to
protect me from such insults. Miska ! ' ' — to the ser-
vant girl — ** summon El-Kimri (The Dove)."
Whilst I stood there dumbfounded and abashci
the girl called up the steps :
** El-Kimri I Come hither!"
Instantly there burst into the room the form of
that hideous negro whom I had glimpsed above;
**0 Kimri," directed the Lady Zuleyka, and
languidly extended her hand in my direction, ** throw
this presumptuous clown into the street I"
130 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
My discomfiture had proceeded far enough, and
I recognized that, at whatever risk of discovery,
I must act instantly. Therefore, at the moment that
El-Kimri reached the foot of the steps, I dashed
my left fist into his grinning face, putting all my
weight behind the blow, which I followed up with
a short right, utterly outraging the pugilistic pro-
prieties, since it was well below the belt. El-Kimri
Mt the dust to the accompaniment of a human discord
eemposed of three notes — and I leaped up the steps,
turned to the left, and ran off around the Mosque
of el-Ashraf, where I speedily lost myself in the
Beneath their factitious duskiness my cheecks
were burning hotly : I was ashamed of my execrable
artistry. For a druggist's assistant does not lightly
make love to a duchess !
I spent the remainder of the forenoon at my house
in the Darb el-Ahmar heaping curses upon my own
fatuity and upon the venerable head of Abdul the
Know-all. At one moment it s^med to me that I
had wantonly destroyed a golden opportunity, at
the next that the seeming oportunity had been a
mere mirage. With the passing of noon and the
approach of evening I sought desperately for a plan,
knowing that if I failed to conceive one by midnight,
another chance of seeing the famous prescription
•would probably not present itself for twelve months.
BREATH OF ALLAH 131
At about four o'clock in the afternoon came liHi
da^\^l of a hazy idea, and since it necessitated a visit
to my rooms at Shepheard's, I washed the paint otf
my face and hands, changed, hurried to the hotel,
ate a hasty meal, and returned to ihe Darb el-Ahmar,
where I resumed my disguise.
There are some who have criticized me harshly
in regard to my commercial activities at this time,
and none of my affairs has provoked greater acerbi-
tude than that of the perfume called ** Breath of
Allah.'* Yet I am at a loss to perceive wherein my
perfidy lay ; for my outlook is sufficiently socialistic
to cause me to regard with displeasure the conserv-
ing by an individual of something which, without loss
to himself, might reasonably be shared by the com-
munity. For this reason I have always resented the
way in which the Moslem veils the faces of the pearls
of his harem. And whilst the success of my present
enterprise would not render the Lady Zuleyka the
poorer, it would enrich and beautify the world by
delighting the senses of men with a perfume mort
exquisite than any hitherto known.
Such were my reflections as I made my way
through the dark and deserted bazaar quarter, fol-
lowing the Sharia el-Akkadi to the Mosque of el-
Ashraf . There I turned to the left in the direction
of the Hamzawi, until, coming to the narrow alley
opening from it into the Suk el-Attarin, I plunged
into its darkness, which was like that of a tunnel,
although the upper parts of the houses above were
silvered by the moon.
132 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
I was making for that cramped little courtyard
adjoining the shop of Mohammed er-Rahman in
which I had observed the presence of one of those
narrow high-wheeled carts peculiar to the district,
and as the entrance thereto from the Suk was closed
by a rough wooden fence I anticipated little diffi-
cult in gaining access. Yet there was one difficulty
which I had not foreseen, and which I had not met
with had I arrived, as I might easily have arranged
to do, a little earlier. Coming to the comer of iho
Street of the Perfumers, I cautiously protruded my
head in order to survey the prospect.
Abu Tabah was standing immediately outside the
shop of Mohammed er-Rahman I
My heart gave a great leap as I drew back into
the shadow, for I counted his presence of evil omen
to the success of my enterprise. Then, a swift
revelation, the truth burst in upon my mind. He
was there in the capacity of imam and attendant
magician at the mystical ** Blessing of the per-
fumes ' ^ ! With cautious tread I retraced my steps,
circled round the Mosque and made for the narrow
street which runs parallel with that of the Perfumers
and into which I knew the courtyard beside
Mohammed's shop must open. What I did not know
was how I was going to enter it from that end.
I experienced unexpected difficulty in locating the
place, for the height of the buildings about me ren-
dered it impossible to pick up any familiar land-
mark. Finally, having twice retraced my steps, I
determined that a door of old but strong workman-
BREATH OP ALLAH 133
ship set in a lugh, thick wall must commmiicate with
the courtyard; for I conkl see no other opening to
the right or left through which it would have been
possible for a vehicle to pass.
Mechanically I tried the door, but, as I had antici-
pated, found it to be securely locked. A profound
silence reigned all about me and there was no window
in sight from which my operations could be observed.
Therefore, having planned out my route, I deter-
mined to scale the wall. My first foothold was offered
by the heavy wooden lock which projected fully six
inches from the door. Above it was a crossbeam
and then a gap of several inches between the top of
the gate and the arch into which it was built. Above
the arch projected an iron rod from which depended
a hook; and if I could reach the bar it would be
possible to get astride the wall.
I reached the bar successfully, and although it
proved to be none too firmly fastened, I took the
chance and without making very much noise found
myself perched aloft and looking down into the little
eourt. A sigh of relief escaped me ; for the narrow
cart with its disproportionate wheels stood there
as I had seen it in the morning, its shafts pointing
gauntly upward to where the moon of the Prophet's
nativity swam in a cloudless sky. A dim light shona
out from the square window of Mohammed er-Bah-
Having studied the situation very carefully, I pre-
sently perceived to my great satisfaction that whilst
Ihe tail of the cart was wedged under a crossbar.
134 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
which retained it in its position, one of the shafts
was in reach of my hand. Thereupon I entrusted
my weight to the shaft, swinging out over the well
of the courtyard. So successful was I that only a
faint creaking sound resulted ; and I descended into
the vehicle almost silently.
Having assured myself that my presence was un-
discovered by Abu Tabah, I stood up cautiously, my
hands resting upon the wall, and peered through
the little \^dndow into the room. Its appearance
had chanered somewhat. The lamp was lighted and
shed a weird and subdued illumination upon a rough
table placed almost beneath it. Upon this table were
scales, measures, curiously shaped flasks, and odd-
looking chemical apparatus which might have been
made in the days of Avicenna himself. At one end
of the table stood an alembic over a little pan in
which burnt a spirituous flame. Mohammed er-Rah-
man was placing cushions upon the diwan immedi-
ately beneath me, but there was no one else in the
room. Glancing upward, I noted that the height of
the neighboring building prevented the moonlight
from penetrating into the courtyard, so that my
presence could not be detected by means of any light
from without; and, since the whole of the upper
part of the room was shadowed, I saw little cause
for apprehension within.
At this moment came the sound of a car approach-
ing along the Sharia esh-Sharawani. I heard it
stop, near the Mosque of el-Ashraf , and in the almost
perfect stillness of those tortuous streets from which
BREATH OF ALLAH 135
by day arises a very babel of tongues I heard ap-
proaching footsteps. I crouched down in the cart,
as the footsteps came nearer, passed the end of the
courtyard abutting on the Street of the Perfumers,
and paused before the shop of Mohammed er-Rah-
man. The musical voice of Abu Tabah spoke and
that of the Lady Zuleyka answered. Came a loud
rapping, and the creak of an opening door : then —
*' Descend the steps, place the coffer on the table,
and then remain immediately outside the door, ' ' con-
tinued the imperious voice of the lady. **Make sure
that there are no eavesdroppers.''
Faintly through the little window there reached
my ears a sound as of some heavy object being placed
upon a wooden surface, then a muffled disturbance
as of several persons entering the room ; finally, the
muffled bang of a door closed and barred . . . and
soft footsteps in the adjoining street !
Crouching down in the cart and almost holding my
breath, I watched through a hole in the side of the
ramshackle vehicle that fence to which I have already
referred as closing the end of the courtyard which
adjoined the Suk el-Attarin. A spear of moonlight,
penetrating through some gap in the surrounding
buildings, silvered its extreme edge. To an accom-
paniment of much kicking and heavy breathing, into
this natural limelight arose the black countenance of
**The Dove.'' To my unbounded joy I perceived
that his nose was lavishly decorated with sticking-
plaster and that his right eye was temporarily off
duty. Eight fat fingers clutching at the top of the
186 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
woodwork, the bloated negro regarded the apparent^
I7 empty yard for a space of some three seconds,
ere lowering his ungainly bulk to the level of the
itreet again. Followed a faint *'pop" and a gur-
gling quite unmistakable. I heard him walking baclr
to the door, as I cautiously stood up and again sup*
veyed the interior of the room.
E.eypt, as the earliest historical records show, hat
always been a land of magic, and according to native
belief it is to-day the theater of many super-natural
dramas. For my own part, prior to the episode
which T am about to relate, my personal experiences
of the kind had been limited and unconvincing. That
Abu Tabah possessed a sort of uncanny power akin
to second sight T knew, but I regarded it merely as
a form of telepathy. His presence at the prepara-
tion of the secret perfume did not surprise me. for
a belief in the efBcacy of magical operations pre-
railed, as T was aware, even among the more cultured
Moslems. My scepticism, however, was about to be
As T raised my head above the ledsre of the window
and looked into the room, T perceived the Lady
Zuleyka seated on the cushioned dtv)an, her hnnds
resting upon an or^en roll of parchment which lay
upon the table beside a massive brass chest of an-
tique native workmanship. The lid of the chest was
raised, and the interior seemed to be empty, but
BREATH OF ALLAH 137
near it upon the table T observed a number of gold-
etoppered vessels of Venetian glass and each of
which was of a different color.
Beside a brazier wherein flowed a charcoal fire,
Abu Tabah stood; and into the fire he oast alter-
nately strips of paper bearing writing of some sort
and little dark brown pastilles which he took from
a sandalwood box set npon a sort of tripod beside
him. They were composed of some kind of aromatic
gum in which benzoin seemed to predominate, and
the fumes from the brazier filled the room with a
The imam, in his soft, musical voice, was reciting
that chapter of the Koran called '*The An^el." Tba
weird ceremony had begun. In order to achieve my
purDOse I perceived that I should have to draw my-
self right up to the narrow embrasure and rest my
weight entirely upon the ledge of the window. There
was little danger in the maneuver, provided I made
no noise ; for the hanging lamp, by reason of its form,
cast no light into the upper part of the room. As T
achieved the desired position I became painfully
aware of the pungency of the perfume inih. which
the apartment was filled
Lying there upon the ledsre in a most painful atti-
tude, I wriggled forward inch by inch further inio
the room, until I was in a position to use my right
arm more or less freely. The preliminary prayer
concluded, the measuring of the perfumes had now
actually commenced, and I readily perceived that
without recourse to the parchment, from which the
138 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
Lady Zuleyka never once removed her hands, it
TTOuld indeed be impossible to discover the secret.
For, consulting the ancient prescription, she wonld
select one of the gold-stoppered bottles, unscrew it,
direct that so many grains should be taken froni it,
and never removing her gaze from Mohammed er-
Rahman whilst he measured out the correct quantity,
would restopper the vessel and so proceed. As each
was placed in a wide-mouthed glass jar by the per-
fumer, Abu Tabah, extending his hands over the
jar, pronounced the names :
* ^ Gabrail Mikail, Israf il, Israil. * '
Cautiously I raised to my eyes the small but
powerful opera-glasses to procure which I had gone
to my rooms at Shepheard's. Focussing them upon
the ancient scroll lying on the table beneath me, I
discovered, to my joy, that I could read the lettering
quite well. Whilst Abu Tabah began to recite some
kind of incantation in the course of which the names
of the Companions of the Prophet frequently
occurred, I commenced to read the writing of
**In the name of God, the Compassionate, the
Merciful, the High, the Great. . . .''
So far had I proceeded and no further when I
became aware of a curious change in the form of
the Arabic letters. They seemed to be moving, to
be cunningly changing places one with another as
if to trick me out of grasping their meaning !
The illusion persisting, I determined that it was
due to the unnatural strain imposed upon my vision^
BREATH OF ALLAH 13S
and although I recognized that time was precious 1
found myself compelled temporarily to desist, since
nothing was to be gained by watching these letters
which danced from side to side of the parchment,
sometimes in groups and sometimes singly, so that I
found myself pursuing one slim Arab A ( ^Alif) en-
tirely up the page from the bottom to the top where
it finally disappeared under the thumb of the Lady
Lowering the glasses I stared down in stupefac-
tion at Abu Tabah. He had just cast fresh incense
upon the flames, and it came home to me, with a
childish and unreasoning sense of terror, that the
Egyptians who called this man the Magician were
wiser than I. For whilst I could no longer hear his
voice, I now could see the words issuing from his
mouth! They formed slowly and gracefully in the
blue clouds of vapour some four feet above his head,
revealed their meaning to me in letters of gold, and
then faded away towards the ceiling!
Old-established beliefs began to totter about me
as I became aware of a number of small murmuring
voices within the room. They were the voices of the
perfumes burning in the brazier. Said one, in a
guttural tone :
* * I am Myrrh. My voice is the voice of the Tomb. ' '
And another softly: **I am Ambergris. I lure
the hearts of men. ' '
And a third huskily: **I am Patchouli. My pro-
mises are lies."
My sense of smell seemed to have deserted me
140 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
and to have been replaced by a sense of hearing.
And now this room of magic began to expand before
my eyes. The walls receded and receded, mitil the
apartment grew larger than the interior of the
Citadel Mosque; the roof shot np so high that I
knew there was no cathedral in the world half so
lofty. Abu Tabah, his hands extended above the
brazier, shrank to minute dimensions, and the Lady
Zuleyka, seated beneath me, became almost invisible.
The project which had led me to thrust myself
into the midst of this feast of sorcery vanished from
my mind. I desired but one thing: to depart, ere
reason utterly deserted me. But, to my horror, I
discovered that my muscles were become rigid ban /Is
of iron! The figure of Abu Tabah was dra^ving
nearer; his slowly moving arms had grown serpen-
tine and his eyes had changed to pools of flame
which seemed to summon me. At the time when this
new phenomenon added itself to the other horrors,
I seemed to be impelled by an irresistible force to
jerk my head downwards : I heard my neck muscles
snap metallically: I saw a scream of agony spurt
forth from my lips . . . and I saw upon a little
ledge immediately below the square window a little
mihkharah, or incense burner, which hitherto I had
not observed. A thick, oily brown stream of vapor
was issuing from its perforated lid and bathing my
face clammily. Sense of smell I had none; bnt a
chuckling, demoniacal voice spoke from the
mibJcharah, saying —
**I am Hashish! I drive men mad I Whilst thou
BREATH OF ALLAH 141
hast lain np there like a very fool, I have sent my
vapors to thy brain and stolen thy senses from thee.
It was for this purpose that I was set here beneath
the window where thou couldst not fail to enjoy the
full benefit of my poisonous perfume. . . . ' '
Slipping off the ledge, I f ell . . . and darkness
closed about me.
My awakening constitutes one of the most painful
recollections of a not uneventful career; for, with
aching head and tortured limbs, I sat upright upon
the floor of a tiny, stuffy, and uncleanly cell! The
only light was that which entered by way of a
little grating in the door. I was a prisoner; and^
in the same instant that I realized the fact of my
incarceration, I realized also that I had been duped.
The weird happenings in the apartment of
Mohammed er-Rahman had been hallucinations due
to my having inhaled the fumes of some preparation
of hashish, or Indian hemp. The characteristic
sickly odor of the drug had been concealed by the
pungency of the other and more odoriferous per-
fumes; and because of the position of the censer
containing the burning hashish, no one else in the
room had been affected by its vapor. Could it have
been that Abu Tabah had known of my presence
from the first ?
I rose, unsteadily, and looked out through the
grating into a narrow passage. A native constable
142 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
stood at one end of it, and beyond him I obtained
a glimpse of the entrance hall. Instantly I recog-
nized that I was under arrest at the Bab el-Khalk
A great rage consumed me. Raising my fists 1
banged furiously upon the door, and the Egyptian
policeman came running along the passage.
**What does this mean, shaweshf* I demanded
^*Why am I detained here? I am an Englishman.
Send the superintendent to me instantly. * *
The policeman's face expressed alternately anger,
surprise, and stupefaction.
**You were brought here last night, most disgust-
ingly and speechlessly drunk, in a cart ! " he replied.
**I demand to see the superintendent. ' '
** Certainly, certainly, effendim!'^ cried the man,
now thoroughly alarmed. *^In an instant, effen-
Such is the magical power of the word ^*Inglisi''
A painfully perturbed and apologetic native offi-
cial appeared almost immediately, to whom I ex-
plained that I had been to a fancy dress ball at the
Gezira Palace Hotel, and, injudiciously walking
homeward at a late hour, had been attacked and
struck senseless. He was anxiously courteous, send-
ing a man to Shepheard's with my written instruc-
tions to bring back a change of apparel and offering
me every facility for removing my disguise and mak-
ing myself presentable. The fact that he palpably
BREATH OF ALLAH 143
disbelieved my story did not render his concern one
whit the less.
I discovered the hour to be close npon noon, and,
once more my outward self, I was about to depart
from the Place Bab el-Kiialk, when, into the super-
intendent's room came Abu Tabah! His handsome
ascetic face exhibited grave concern as he saluted
**How can I express my sorrow, Kemaby Pasha,"
he said in his soft faultless English, **that so unfor-
tunate and unseemly an accident should have be-
fallen you? I learned of your presence here but a
few moments ago, and I hastened to convey to you
an assurance of my deepest regret and sympathy.''
* * More than good of you, ' ' I replied. * ' I am much
indebted. ' '
**It grieves me," he continued suavely, *'to learn
that there are footpads infesting the Cairo streets,
and that an English gentleman may not walk home
from a ball safely. I trust that you will provide
the police with a detailed account of any valuables
which you may have lost. I have here" — ^thrusting
his hand into his robe — **the only item of your prop-
erty thus far recovered. No doubt you are somewhat
short-sighted, Kemaby Pasha, as I am, and experi-
ence a certain difficulty in discerning the names of
your partners upon your dance programme."
And with one of those sweet smiles which could
so transfigure his face, Abu Tabah handed me my
THE WHISPERING MUMMY
F]LIX BRjerON and I were the only occnpante
of the raised platform at the end of the hall ;
and the inartistic performance of the bulky
dancer who occupied the stage promised to be inter-
minable. From motives of sheer boredom I studied
the details of her dress — a white dress, fitting like
a vest from shoulder to hip, and having short, full
sleeves under which was a sort of blue gauze. Her
hair, wrists, and ankles glittered with barbaric
jewelery and strings of little coins.
A deafening orchestra consisting of tambourines,
shrieking Arab viols, and the inevitable dardbuJceh,
surrounded the performer in a half -circle ; and three
other large- sized ghawazi mingled their shrill voices
with the barbaric discords of the musicians. I
*'As a quest of local color, Breton,'' I said, **thi8
evening's expedition can only be voted a dismal
Felix Breton turned to me, with a smile, restiug his
elbows upon the dirty little marble-topped table.
He looked sufficiently like an artist to have been
merely a painter; yet his gruesome picture **Le Eoi
S 'Amuse" had proved the salvation of the previous
THE WHISPERING MUMMY 145
"Have patience/' he said; '*it is Shejeret ed-
Durr (Tree of Pearls) that we have come to see,
and she has not yet appeared.''
** Unless she appears shortly," I replied, stifling
another yawn, **I shall disappear."
But even as I spoke, there arose a hum of excite-
ment throughout the crowded room; the fat dancer,
breathless from her unpleasing exertions, resumed
her seat ; and all the performers turned their heads
towards a door at the side of the stage. A veiled
figure entered, with slow, lithe step; and her ap-
pearance was acclaimed excitedly. Coming to the
centre of the stage, she threw off her veil with a swift
movement, and confronted the audience, a slim, bar-
baric figure. I glanced at Felix Breton. His eyes
were glittering with excitement. Here at last was the
ghaziyeh of romance, the ghaziyeh of the Egyptian
monuments ; a true daughter of that mysterious tribe
who, in the remote past of the Nile-land, wove
spells of subtle moon-magic before the golden
A monstrous crash from the musicians opened
the music of the dance — the famous Gazelle dance
— which commenced to a measure of long, monoto-
nous cadences. Shejeret ed-Durr began slowly to
move her arms and body in that indescribable manner
which, like the stirring of palm fronds, speaks
the veritable language of the voluptuous Orient.
The attendant dancers clashing their miniature
cymbals, the measure quickened, and swift passion
informed the languorous body, which magically be-
146 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
came transformed into that of a leaping nymph, a
bacchante, a living illustration of Keats' wonder-
**Like to a moring vintage, down they came,
Crown'd with green leaves, and faces all aflame;
All madlj dancing through the pleasant valley,
To scare thee, Melancholy!"
At the conclusion of her dance, Shejeret ed-Durr,
resuming her veil, descended to the floor of the hall
and passed from table to table, exchanging light
badinage with those patrons Imown to her.
*^Do you think you could induce her to come up
here, Kernabyf said Breton excitedly; **she is
simply the ideal model for my *Danse Funebre.' ''
**Any inducement other than our presence in this
select part of the establishment,'' I replied, offering
him a cigarette, *4s unnecessary. She will present
herself with all reasonable despatch. ' '
Indeed, I had seen the dark eyes glance many
times towards us, as we sat there in distinguished
isolation ; and, even as I spoke, the girl was ascend-
ing the steps, from whence she approached our table,
smiling in friendly fashion. Breton's surprise was
rather amusing when she confidently seated herself,
giving an order to the cross-eyed waiter in close
attendance^ It would be our privilege, of course,
to pay the bilL Of its being a privilege, no one could
doubt who had observed the envious glances cast in
our direction by less favored patrons.
As Breton spoke no Arabic, the task of interpreter
devolved upon me; and I was carrying on quite
THE WHISPERING MUMMY 147
mechanically when my attention was drawn to a
peculiarly sinister-looking person seated alone at a
table close beside the corner of the stage. I remem-
bered having observed him address some remark to
Shejeret ed-Durr, and having noted that she seemed
to avoid him. Now, he was directing npon us a glare
so electrically baleful that when I first detected it
I was conscious of a sort of shock. The man wa^
rather oddly dressed, wearing a black turban and a
sort of loose robe not unlike the humus of the desert
Arabs. I concluded that he belonged to some re-
ligious order, and that his bosom was inflamed with
a hatred of a most murderous character towards
myself, Felix Breton, and the dancer.
I endeavored, without attracting the girPs notice
to indicate to Breton the presence of the Man of the
Glare; but the artist was so engrossed in contem-
plation of Shejeret ed-Durr and kept me so busy in-
terpreting, that I abandoned the attempt in despair.
Having made his wishes evident to her, the girl
readily consented to pose for him ; and when next I
glanced at the table near the stage, the Man of the
Glare had disappeared.
What induced me to look towards the rear of the
platform upon which we were seated I know not,
miless I did so in obedience to a species of hypnotic
suggestion; but something prompted me to glance
over my shoulder. And, for the second time that
night, I encountered the gaze of mysterious eyes.
From a little square window these compelling eyes
regarded me fixedly, and presently I distinguished
148 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
the outline of a head surmonnted by a white tarban.
The second watcher was Abu Tabah I
"What business could have brought the mysteriona
vmdm to such a place was a problem beyond my
powers of conjecture, but that he was silently direct-
ing me to depart with all speed I presently made out
Having signified, by a gesture, that I had grasped
the purport of his message, I turned again to Breton,
who was struggling to carry on a conversation with
Shejeret ed-Durr in his native French.
I experienced some difficulty in inducing him U
leave, but my arguments finally prevailed, and we
passed out into the dimly lighted street. About
ns in the darkness pipes w^ailed, and there was the
dim throbbing of the eternal darabuheh. We were
in that part of El-Wasr adjoining the notorious
Square of the Fountain. Discordant woman voices
filled the night, and strange figures flitted from the
shadows into the light streaming from the open
doorways. It was the centre of secret Cairo, the
midnight city; and three paces from the door of
the dance hall, a slim, black-robed figure suddenly
appeared at my elbow, and the musical voice of
Abu Tabah spoke close to my ear :
'*Be on the terrace of Shepheard^s in half an
The mysterious figure melted again into the
shadows about us.
On the deserted hotel balcony, Abu Tabah awaited
THE WHISPERING MUMl^r? 149
"It was indeed fortunate, Kemaby Pasha," be
said, **that I observed you this evening."
"I am greatly obliged to you," I replied, **for
watching over me with such paternal solicitude.
May I inquire what danger I have incurred!"
I was angrily conscious of feeling like a school-
boy suffering reproof.
"A very great danger," Abi Tabah assured me,
his gentle, musical voice expressing real concern.
** Ahmad es-Kebir is the lover of the dancer called
Shejeret ed-Durr, alhtough she who is of the ghawdzi,
of Keneh does not return his affections."
** Ahmad es-Kebir? — do you refer to a malignant
looking person in a black turban?" I inquired
Abu Tabah gravely inclined his head.
"He is one of the Rifa^iyeh, the Black Darimshes,
They practise strange rites and are by some ac-
credited with supernatural powers. For you the
danger is not so great as for your friend, who seemed
to be speaking words of love to the ghaziyeh/'
I laughed shortly.
"You are mistaken, Abu Tabah," I replied; "hifi
interest was not of the character which you suppose.
He is an artist and merely desired the girl to pose
Abu Tabah shrugged his shoulders.
"She is an unveiled woman," he said contemp-
tuously, "but love in the heart of such a one as
Ahmad is a terrible passion, consuming the vitals
and rendering whom it afflicts either a partaker of
Paradise or as one of the evil ginn.**
150 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
**Iii the particular case under consideration," I
said, * * it would seem distinctly to have produced the
latter and less agreeable symptoms.''
**Let your friend step warily,'* advised Abu
Tabah; **for some who have aroused the enmity of
the Black Darwishes have met with strange ends,
nor has it been possible to fix responsibility upon
any member of the order.*'
**You think my poor friend, Felix Breton, may
be discovered some morning in an unpleasantly
**The Black Barunshes do not employ the knife,'*
answered Abu Tabah; *'they employ strange and
more subtle weapons."
I stared hard at him in the darkness. I thought
I knew my Cairo, but this sounded unpleasantly
mysterious. However —
**I am indebted to you, Abu Tabah," I said, **for
your timely warning. As you know, I always per-
sonally avoid any possibility of misunderstanding
in regard to my relations with Egyptian women-
*'With some rare exceptions," agreed Abu Tabah,
'* particulars of which escape my memory at the
moment, you have always been a model of discretion,
Kernaby Pasha. ' *
**I will warn my friend," I said hastily, **of the
view of his conduct mistakenly taken by the gentle-
man in the black turban."
**It is well," replied Abu Tabah; *^we shall meet
again ere long."
THE WHISPERING MUMMY 151
With that and the customary dignified salutations
he departed, leaving me wondering what hidden
significance lay in his words, **we shall meet again
Experience had taught me that Abu Tabah's warn-
ings were not to be lightly dismissed, and I knew
enough of the fanaticism of those strange Eastern
sects whereof the Eifa'iyeh, or Black DarivtsJies,
was one, to realize that it would prove an unhealthy
amusement to interfere with their domestic affairs.
Felix Breton, who possessed the rare gift of captur-
ing and transferring to canvas the atmosphere of the
East with the opulent colorings and vivid contrasts
which constitute its charm, had nevertheless but little
practical experience of the manners and customs ot
the golden Orient. He had leased a large studio
situated on the roof of a fine old Cairene palace
hidden away behind the Street of the Booksellers
and almost in the shadow of the Mosque of el-Azhar.
His romantic spirit had prompted him after a time
to give up his rooms at the Continental and to take
up his abode in the apartment adjoining the studio ;
that is to say, completely to cut himself off from
European life and to become an inhabitant of the
Oriental city. With his imperfect knowledge of the
practical side of native life in the East, I did not
envy him ; but I was fully alive to his danger, isolated
as he was from the European community, indeed
from modernity ; for out of the boulevards of modem
Cairo into the streets of the Arabian Nights is but
t step, yet a i^p that bridges the gulf of centuries.
152 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
As I entered his studio on the f olowing morning,
I discovered him at work upon the extraordinarj
picture **Danse Funebre.'' Shejeret ed-Durr was
posing in the dress of an ancient priestess of Isis.
Breton briefly greeted me, waving his hand towards
a cushioned diwan before which stood a little coffee-
table bearing decanters, siphons, cigarettes, and
other companionable paraphernalia. Making myself
comfortable, I studied the picture and the modeL
**Danse Funebre" was an extraordinary concep-
tion, representing an elaborately furnished modem
room, apparently that of an antiquary or Egyptolo-
gist; for a multitude of queer relics decorated the
walls, cabinets, and the large table at which a man
was seated. Boldly represented immediately to thft
left of his chair stood a mummy in an ornate sarco-
phagus, and forth from the swathed figure into the
light cast downwards from an antique lamp, floated
a beautiful spirit shape — ^that of an Egyptian
priestess. Upon her face was an expression of in-
tense anger, as, her fingers crooked in sinister
fashion, she bent over the man at the table.
The mummy and sarcophagus depicted on the
canvas stood before me against the wall of the
studio, the lid resting beside the case. It was
moulded, as is sometimes seen, to represent the face
and figure of the occupant and was as fine an example
of the kind as I had met with. The mummy was that
of a priestess and dancer of the Great Temple at
PhilsB, and it had been lent by the museum authoritks
for the purpose of Breton's picture.
THE WHISPERING MUMMY 153
His enthusiasm at first seeing Shejeret ed-Durr
was explainable by the really uncanny resemblance
which the girl bore to the modeled figure. Studying
her, from my seat on the dtwcm, as she posed in that
gauzy raiment depicted upon the lid of the sarco-
phagus, it seemed indeed that the ancient priestess
was reborn in the form of Shejeret ed-Durr the
ghaeiyeh. Breton had evidently tabooed make-up,
with the exception of the characteristic black border-
ing to the eyes (which appeared in the presentment
of the servant of Isis) ; and seen now in its natural
•oloring the face of the dancing-girl had undoubted
Presently, whilst the model rested, I informed
Breton of my conversation with Abu Tabah; but,
as I had anticipated, he was sceptical to the point
**My dear Kernaby," he said, *4s it likely that
I am going to interrupt my work now that I have
found such an inspiring model, because some ridicu-
lous darwish disapproves?*'
**It is highly unlikely," I admitted; '^but do not
make the mistake of treating the matter lightly. You
are right off the map here, and Cairo is not Paris."
**It is a great deal safer!" he cried in his bois-
terous fashion, * * and infinitely more interesting. ' '
But my mind was far from easy; for in the dark
eyes of the model, when their glance rested upcai
Felix Breton, there was that to have aroused
poisonous sentiments in the bosom of the Man of
154 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
During the course of the following month I saw
Felix Breton two or three times, and he was enthu-
siastic about the progress of his picture and the
beauty of his model. The first hint that I received
of the strange idea which was to lead to stranger
happenings came one afternoon when he had called
upon me at Shepheard's.
**Do you believe in reincarnation, KemabyT' ha
I stared at him in surprise.
*^ Regardless of my personal views on the matter,''
I replied, *4n what way does the subject interest
Momentarily he hesitated; then —
*^The resemblance between Yasmina" (this was
the real name of Shejeret ed-Durr) ^^and the
priestess of Isis," he said, ** appears to me too
marked to be explainable by mere coincidence. If
the mummy were my personal property I should
unwrap it "
**Do you seriously desire me to believe that you
regard Yasmina as a reincarnation of the elder
* ^ That or a lineal descendant, ' ' he answered. ^ ^ The
tribe of the Ghawdzi is of unknown antiquity and
may very well be descended from those temple
dancers of the days of the Pharaohs. If you have
studied the ancient wall paintings, you cannot have
failed to observe that the dancing girls represented
THE WHISPERING MUMMY 155
have entirely different forms from those of any
other women depicted and from those of the ordinary
Egyptian women of to-day.'*
His enthusiasm was tremendous; he was one of
those uncomfortable fanatics who will ride a theory
to the death.
**I cannot say that I have noticed it/' I replied.
'*Your knowledge of the female form divine is doubt-
less more extensive than mine."
**My dear Kernaby," he cried excitedly, **to the
trained eye the difference is extraordinary. Until
I saw Yasmina I had believed the peculiar form to
which I refer to be extinct like the blue enamel and
the sacred lotus. If it is not reincarnation it is
I could not help thinking that it more closely re-
sembled insanity than either; but since Breton had
made no reference to the wearer of the black turban,
I experienced less anxiety respecting his physical
than his mental welfare.
Three days later there was a dramatic develop-
ment. Drifting idly into Breton's studio one morn-
ing I found him pacing the place in despair and glar-
ing at his unfinished canvas like a man distraught.
** Where is Shejeret ed-Durr?" I inquired.
'*Gone!" he replied. **She disappeared yester-
day and ^ can find no trace of her."
* * Surely the excellent Suleyman, proprietor of the
dancing establishment, can assist you?"
**I tell you," cried Breton savagely, *Hhat she has
disappeared. No one knows what has become of her. ' '
156 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
I looked at him in dismay. He presented a mourn-
ful spectacle. He was unshaven and his dark hair
was wildly disordered. His despair was more acute
than I should have supposed possible in the circum^
stances ; and I concluded that his interest in Yasmina
was deeper than I had assumed or that I was
incapable of comprehending the artistic tempera-
ment. I suppose the Gallic blood in him had some-
thing to do with it, but I was unspeakably distressed
to observe that the man was on the verge of tears.
Consolation was impossible, and I left him pacing
his empty studio distractedly. That night at an
unearthly hour, long after I had retired to my own
apartments, he came to Shepheard's. Being shown
into my room, and the servant having departed —
''Yasmina is dead!'' he burst out, standing there,
a disheveled figure, just within the doorway.
*'What!'' I exclaimed, standing up from the table
at which I had been writing and confronting him.
* ' Dead ? Do you mean ' '
*'He has murdered her!'* said Breton, in a dull
monotonous voice — ' ' that fiend of whom you warned
I was appalled ; for I had been utterly unprepared
for such a tragedy.
' * Who discovered her ? ' *
**No one discovered her; she will never be dis-
covered! He has buried her body in some secret
spot in the desert."
My amazement grew with every word that he
uttered, and presently —
THE WHISPERING MUMMY 157
"Then how in Heaven's name did you learn of
her murder?'' I asked.
Felix Breton, who had hegun to pace up and down
the room, a truly pitiable figure, paused and looked
at me wildly.
**You will think that I am mad, Kemaby," he
said; **but I must tell you — I must tell someone.
I could see that you were incredulous when I spoke
to you of reincarnation, but I was right, Kernaby,
I was right I Either that or my reason is deserting
My opinion inclined distinctly in the direction of
the latter theory, but I remained silent, watching
Breton's haggard face.
** To-night," he continued, ^*as I sat looking at
my unfinished picture and trying to imagine what
oould have become of Yasmina, the mummy — the
mummy of the priestess — spohe to me!"
I slowly sank back into my chair. I was now
assured that Felix Breton had formed a sudden and
intense infatuation for Yasmina and that her mys-
terious disappearance had deranged his sensitive
mind. Words failed me; I could think of nothing
to say ; and bending towards me his haggard face —
**It whispered to me," he said, *4n her voice — ^in
my own language, French, as I have taught it to her ;
just a few imperfect words, but sufficient to convey
to me the story of the tragedy. Kernaby, what does
it mean! Is it possible that her spirit, released
from the body of Yasmina, has returned to that
.wbioh I firmly believe it formerly inhabited? . . .*'
158 TALES OF SECKET EGYPT
I had had the misfortune to be a party to some dis-
tressing scenes, but few had affected me so unpleas-
antly as this. That poor Felix Breton was raving
I could not doubt, but having persuaded him to
spend the night at Shepheard's and having seen him
safely to bed, I returned to my o^^n room to en-
deavor to work out the problem of what steps I
should take regarding him on the morrow.
In the morning, however, he seemed more com-
posed, having shaved and generally rendered him-
self more presentable ; but the wild look still lingered
in his eyes and I could see that the strange obsession
had secured a firm hold upon him. He discussed
the matter quite calmly during breakfast, and invited
met to visit the scene of this supernatural happening.
I assented, and hailing arahiyeh we drove together
to the studio.
There was nothing abnormal in the appearance
of the place, but I examined the mummy and the
mummy case with a new curiosity; for if Felix
Breton was not mad (and this was a point upon
which I recognized my incompetence to decide) the
phantom voice was clearly the product of some trick.
However, I was unable to discover anything to ac-
count for it. The sarcophagus stood against the
outer wall of the studio and near to a large lattice
window before which was draped a heavy tapestry
curtain for the purpose of excluding undesirable
light upon that side of the modePs throne. There
was no balcony outside the window, which was fully,
thirty feet from the street below; therefore unless
THE WHISPERING MUMMY 159
someone had been hiding in the window recess be-
side the sarcophagus, trickery appeared to be out of
the question. Turning to Breton, who was watching
me haggardly —
**You searched the recess last night?" I said.
**I did — immediately. There was no one there.
There was no one anywhere in the studio ; and when
I looked out of the open window, the street below
was deserted from end to end.''
Naturally, I took it for granted that he would
avoid the place, at any rate by night ; and I said as
much, as we passed along the Musld together. I
can never forget the wildness in his eyes as he
turned to me.
**I must go back, Kemaby," he said. **It seems
like desertion, base and cowardly."
Breton did not join me at dinner that evening as
we had arranged that he should do, and towards the
?iour of ten o'clock, growing more and more uneasy
on his behalf, I set out for the studio, half hoping
that I should meet him. I saw nothing of him, how-
ever, as I crossed the Ezbekiyeh Gardens and the
Atabet el-Khadra into the Muski. From thence on-
ward to the Eondpoint the dark and narrow streets
were almost deserted, and from the corner of the
Sharia el-Khordagiya to the Street of the Book-
binders I met with no living thing save a lean and
160 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
My footsteps echoed hollowly from wall to wall
of the overhanging buildings, as I approached the
door giving acess to the courtyard from which 9
stair communicated with the studio above. The
moonlight, slanting down into the ancient place,
left more than half of it in densest shadow, but just
touched the railing of the balcony and the lower
part of the mushrabiyeh screen masking what onoe
iad been the harem apartments from the view of one
entering the courtyard. Far above me, through an
open lattice, a dim light shone out, though vaguely.
This part of the house was bathed in the radiance
of the moon, which dimmed that of the studio lamp ;
for the open window was the window of Breton '8
The door at the foot of the stairs was partly open-
and I ascended slowly, since the place was quite dark
and I was forced to feel my way around the eccentric
turnings introduced by an Arab architect to whom
simplicity had evidently been an abomination.
A modem door had been fitted to the studio ; and
although this door was also unfastened, I rapped
loudly, but, receiving no answer, entered the studio.
It was empty. The lamp was lighted, as I had ob-
served from below, and a faint aroma of Turkish
tobacco smoke hung in the air. Clearly, Breton had
left but a few moments earlier; and I judged it
probable that he would be returning very shortly,
for had he set out for Shepheard's he would not
have left his door unlocked, and in any event I
should have met him on the way. Therefore, having?
THE WHISPERING MUMMY ICl
glanced into the inner room, which, latterly, Breton
had been using as a bedroom, I sat down on the dtwcm
and prepared to await his return.
The lamp whose light I had seen shining through
the window was that which hung before the model's
throne, and the curtain which usually draped the
window recess had been partially pulled aside, so
that from where I sat I could see part of the centre
lattice, which was open. My mind at this time was
entirely occupied with uneasy speculations regard-
ing Breton, and although I had glanced more than
once at the large unfinished picture on the easel,
from which the face of Shejeret ed-Durr peered out
across the shoulder of the seated man, and several
times had looked at the mummy set upright in its
painted sarcophagus, no sense of the uncanny had
touched me or in any way prepared me for the amaz-
ing manifestation which I was about to witness.
How long I had sat there I cannot say exactly;
possibly for ten minutes or a quarter of an hour:
when, suddenly, an eerie whisper crept through the
stillness of the big room I
Since I had more than once been temporarily
tricked into belief in the supernatural, by means of
oertain ingenious devices, I did not readily fall a
victim to the mysterious nature of the present oc-
currence. Yet I must confess that my heart gave a
great leap and I was forced to exert all my will to
control my nerves. I sat quite still, listening intently
for a repetition of that evil whisper. Then, in tbo
stillness, it came again.
162 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
''Felix,'* it breathed, *' because of you I lie dead in
a grave in the desert. ... I died for you, Felix,
and now I am so lonely. . . .*'
The whispering voice offered no clue to the age or
the sex of the speaker; for a true whisper is toneless.
But the words, as Breton had declared, were uttered
in broken French and spoken with a curious accent.
It ceased, that ghostly whispering; and I realized
that my nerves could stand no more of it; for that
it came or seemed to come from the mummy of the
priestess was a fact as undeniable as it was horrible.
Resorting to action, I sprang up and leaped across
the room, grasping first at the curtain draped in
the window on the right of the sarcophagus. I jerked
it fully aside. The recess was empty. All three
lattices were open, on the right, left, and in the
centre of the window; but, craning out from the
latter, I saw the street below to be vacant from end
Stepping back into the room, and metaphorically
clutching my courage with both hands, I approached
the sarcophagus, peered behind it, all around it, and,
finally, into the swathed face of the mummy itself.
Nothing rewarded my search. But the studio of
Felix Breton seemed to have become icily cold; at
any rate I found myself to be shivering; and walk-
ing deliberately, although it cost me a monstrous
effort to do so, I descended the dark winding stair-
way into the courtyard, and, on regaining the street,
discovered to my intense annoyance that my brow
was wet ^^ith cold perspiration.
THE WHISPERING MUl^J^lY 163
I had taken no more than ten paces in the direction
of the Suk es-Siidan when I heard the sound of
approaching footsteps, and for some reason (I can
only suppose as a result of my highly strung con-
dition) I stepped into the shelter of a narrow gate-
way, where I could see without being seen, and there
awaited the appearance of the one who approached.
It was Felix Breton, his face showing ghastly in
the moonlight as he turned the corner. I could not
be certain if a mere echo had deceived me, but I
thought I could detect faintly the softer footfalls
of someone who was following him. From my cover
I had an uninterrupted view of the entrance to the
house which I had just left; and without showing
myself I watched Breton approach the door. At its
threshold he seemed to hesitate; and in that brief
hesitancy were illustrated the conflicting emotions
driving the man. I recalled the words he had spoken
to me that morning. * * I must go back, Kemaby ; it
seems like desertion, base and cowardly.'' He
opened the door and disappeared.
As he did so, a second figure crossed from the
shadows on the opposite side of the street — that is,
the side upon which I was concealed; and in turn
advanced towards the door. As he passed my hid-
ing-place I acted. Without an instant's hesitation
I hurled myself upon him.
How he avoided that furious attack — if he did
avoid it — or whether in the darkness I miscalculated
my spring, I do not know to this day: I only know
that I missed my objective, stumbled, recovered my-
164 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
«elf . . . and turned with clenched fists to find Ah6
Tabdh confronting me !
**Kernaby Pasha!'* he cried.
**Abu Tabah!'* said I dazedly.
**I perceive that I am not alone in my anxiety
for the welfare of M. Felix Breton.''
**But why were you following him! I narrowly
missed assaulting you."
** Very narrowly," he agreed in his gentle manner;
**but you ask me why I was following M. Breton.
I was following him because I have seen so many
of those who have crossed the path of the Black
DarwisJies meet with violent and inexplicable
deaths. ' '
*^ Murder?" I whispered.
**Not murder — suicide. Therefore, observing, aa
I had anticipated, a strangeness in your friend's
behavior, I have watched him. ' '
**The strangeness of his behavior is easily ac-
counted for," I said. And excitedly, for the horror
of the episode in the studio was ytill strongly upon
me, I told him of the whispering mummy.
** These are very dreadful things of which you
speak, Kernaby Pasha," he admitted, **but I warned
you that it was ill to incur the enmity of the Black
Darwtshes. That there is a scheme afoot to com-
pass the self-destruction or insanity of your friend
is now evident to me ; and he has brought this calami-
ty upon himself ; for the words which he believed to
be spoken by the spirit of the girl Yasmina would not
have affected him so unpleasantly if his attitude
THE WHISPEBING MUMMY 165
towards her had been marked by proper restraint
and the affair confined within suitable limitations.''
* * Quite so. But although the Black Darwtshes
may be both malignant and clever, that uncanny
whispering is beyond the control of natural forces."
**Such is not my opinion/' replied Abu Tabah.
'*A spirit does not mistake one person for another;
and the whispering voice addressed itself to * Felix'
when Felix was not present. I believe, Kemaby
Pasha, that you are the possessor of a pair of ex-
cellent opera-glasses ? May I suggest that you return
to Shepheard's and procure them."
The platform of the minaret seemed very cold to
the touch of my stockinged feet; for I had left my
shoes at the entrance to the mosque below in ac-
cordance with custom; and now, from the wooden
balcony, I overlooked the neighboring roofs of Cairo,
and Abu Tabah, beside me, pointed to where a vague
patch of light broke the darkness beneath us to the
**The window of M. Felix Breton's studio," he
Raising the glasses to his eyes, he gazed in that
direction, whilst I also peered thither and succeeded
in making out the well of the courtyard and the
roofs of the buildings to right and left of it. It was
not evident to me for what Abu Tabah was looking,
and when presently he lowered the glasses and turned
to me I expressed my doubts in words.
166 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
**It is surely evident/' I said, speaking, as I now
almost invariably did to the imam, in English, of
which he had a perfect mastery, **that we have little
chance of discovering anything from here, since
nothing was visible from the studio window.
Furthermore, who save Yasmina could have spoken
in the manner which I have related and in broken
**An eavesdropper,'' he replied, ** might have
profited by the lessons which Yasmina received from
M. Breton; and all vocal characteristics are lost in
a whisper. In the second place, Yasmina is not
Although, when Breton had informed me of her
death, I myself had doubted him, for some reason
the ghostly whisper had convinced me as it had con-
**She has been kept a prisoner during the past
week in a house belonging to one of the Black
Darwishes/' continued Abu Tabah; **but my agents
succeeded in tracing her this morning. By my
orders, however, she has not been allowed to return
to her home."
^*And what was the object of those orders?"
*^That I might learn for what purpose she had
been made to disappear," replied Abu Tabah; **and
I have learned it to-night."
**Then you think that the whispering mum-
He suddenly clutched my arm.
THE WHISPERING MUMMY 167
*' Quick! raise your glasses!'' he said softly. '*0n
the roof of the house to the left of the light. There
is the whispering mummy!''
Strung up to a high pitch of excitement, I gazed
through the glasses in the direction indicated by
my companion. Without difficulty I discerned him
! — a man wearing a black turban — ^who crept like
some ungainly cat along the flat roof, carrying in
his hand what looked like one of those sugar canes
which pass for a delicacy among the natives, but
which to European eyes appear more suitable for
curtain-poles than sweetmeats. Springing perilously
across a yawning gulf, the wearer of the black turban
gained the roof of the studio, crept along for some
little distance further, and then, lying prone, began
slowly to lower the bamboo rod in the direction of
the lighted window.
I found that unconsciously I had suspended my
respiration, and now, breathlessly, as the truth came
home to me —
**It is a speaking-tube!" I cried, '*I cannot see
the end of it, but no doubt it is curved so as to
protrude through the side of the lattice window. Do
you look ,Abu Tabah: I propose to act."
Thrusting the glasses into the imam's hand, I
took my Colt repeater from my pocket, and, having
peered for some seconds steadily in the direction
of the dimly visible Darwish, I opened fire ! I had
fired five shots in the heat of my anger at that
sinister crouching figure, ere Abu Tabah seized my
168 TALES OF SECEJET EGYPT
**Stop!'' he cried; **do you forget where 70H
Truly I had forgotten in my indignation, or I
should not have outraged his feelings by firing from
the minaret of a mosque. But sufficient of my wrath
remained to occasion me a thrill of satisfaction,
when, peering through the dusk, I saw the Darivish
throw up his arms and disappear from view.
*' There is blood in the courtyard," said Ab4
Tabah; **but Ahmad es-Kebir has fled. Therefore
he still lives, and his anger will be not the less but
the greater. Depart from Cairo, M. Breton: it is
my counsel to you.'*
**But,'' cried Felix Breton, glaring wildly at the
big canvas on the easel, *^I must finish my picture.
As Yasmina is alive, she must return, and I must
finish my picture!'*
^* Yasmina cannot return," replied Abu Tabah,
fiixing his weird eyes upon the speaker. **I have
caused her to be banished from Cairo." He raised
his hand, checking Breton's hot words ere they were
uttered, '* Recriminations are unavailing. Her
presence disturbs the peace of the city, and the peeuse
of the city it is my duty to maintain,"
LOED OF THE JACKALS
IN those days, of course (said the French agent,
looking out across the sea of Yiissuf Effendis
which billowed up against the balcony to where,
in the moonlight, the minarets of Cairo pointed the
way to God), I did not occupy the position which
I occupy to-day. No, I was younger, and more ambi-
tious; I thought to carve in the annals of Egypt
A name for myself such as that of De Lesseps.
I had a scheme — and there were those who be-
Keved in it — for extending the borders of Egypt.
Ah ! my friends, Egypt after all is but a double belt
of mud following the Nile, and terminated east and
west by the desert. The desert ! It was the dream
of my life to exterminate that desert, that hungry
gray desert ; it was my plan — a foolish plan as J know
now — to link the fertile Fayum to the Oases I How
was this to be done f Ah I
Why should I dig up those buried skeletons? It
was not done; it never could be done; therefore,
let me not bore you with how I had proposed to do
it Suffice it that my ambitions took me far off the
beaten tracks, far, even, from the caravan roads —
far into the gray heart of the desert
170 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
But I was ambitious, and only nineteen — or scarce-
ly twenty. At nineteen, a man who comes from St,
Remy fears no obstacle which Fate can place in his
way, and looks upon the world as a grape-fruit to b^
<3weetened with endeavor and sucked empty.
It was in those days, then, that I learned as you?
Budyard Kipling has also learned that **East is
East"; it was in those days that I came face to face
with that ** mystery of Egypt'* about which so muck
is written, has always been written, and always will
be written, but concerning which so few people, so
very few people, know anything whatever.
Yes, I, Rene de Flassans, saw with my own eyek
a thing that I knew to be magic, a thing whereat my
reason rebelled — a thing which my poor European
intelligence could not grapple, could not begin to
It was this which you asked me to tell you, was it
not? I will do so with pleasure, because I know that
I speak to men of honor, and because it is good
for me, now that I cannot count the gray hairs in my
beard, to confess how poor a thing I was when I
could count every hair upon my chin — and how grand
a thing I thought myself.
One evening, at the end of a dreadful day in the
saddle — beneath a sky which seemed to reflect all
the fires of hell, a day passed upon sands simply
smoking in that merciless sun — ^I and my native com-
panions came to an encampment of Arabs.
They were Bedouins* — the tribe does not matter
* This incorrect but familiar spelling is retained throughout.
LORD OF THE JACKALS 171
at the moment — and, as you may know, the Bedouin
is the most hospitable creature whom God has yet
created. The tent of the Sheikh is open to any
traveller who cares to rest his weary limbs therein.
Freely he may partake of all that the tribe has to
offer, food and drink and entertainment ; and to seek
to press payment upon the host would be to insult a
That is desert hospitality. A spear that stands
thrust upright in the sand before the tent door signi-
fies that whosoever would raise his hand against
^e guest has first to reckon with the Sheikh.
Equally it would be an insult to erect one's own
tent in the neighborhood of a Bedouin encampment.
Well, my friends, I knew this well, for I was no
stranger to the nomadic life, and accordingly, with-
out fear of the fierce-eyed throng who came forth
to meet us, I made my respects to the Sheikh Said
Mohammed, and was reckoned by him as a friend
and a brother. His tent was placed at my disposal
iind provisions were made for the suitable entertain-
ioaent of those who were with me.
You know how dusk falls in Egypt? At one
moment the sky is a brilliant canvas, glorious with
every color known to art, at the next the curtain —
the wonderful veil of deepest violet — ^has fallen; the
stars break through it like diamonds through the
finest gauze; it is night, velvet, violet night. You
fiee it here in this noisy modem Cairo. In the lonely
desert it is ten thousand times grander, ten thousand
Cimes more impressive ; it speaks to the soul with the
172 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
voice of the silence. Ah, those desert nights!
So was the night of which I speak; and having
partaken of the fare which the Sheikh caused to be
set before me — and Bedouin fare is not for thff
squeamish stomach — I sipped that deKcious coffee
which, though an acquired taste, is the true nectar,
and looked out beyond the four or ^ve palm trees
of this little oasis to where the gray carpet of the
desert grew black as ebony and met the violet sweep
of the sky.
Perhaps I was the first to see him; I cannot say;
but certainly he was not perceived by the Bedouins,
although one stood on guard at the entrance to
How can I describe him? At the time, as he
approached in the moonlight with a shambling, stoop
ing gait, I felt that I had never seen his like before.
Now I know the reason of my wonder, and the reason
of my doubt. I know what it was about him which
inspired a kind of horror and a revulsion — a dread.
Elfin locks he had, gray and matted, falling about
his angular face, shading his strange, yellow eyes.
His was dressed in rags, in tatters ; he was furtive,
and he staggered as one who is very weak, slowly
approaching out of the vastness.
Then it appeared as though every dog in the camp
knew of his coming. Out from the shadows of the
tents they poured, those yapping mongrels. Never
have I seen such a thing. In the midst of the yellow-
ish, snarling things, at the very entrance to the camp^
the wretched old man fell, uttering a low cry.
LORD OF THE JACKALS 173
But now, snatching up a heavy club which lay
close to my hand, I rushed out of the tent. Others
were thronging out too, but, first of them all, I burst
in among the dogs, striking, kicking, and shouting.
I stooped and raised the head of the stranger.
Mutely he thanked me, with half-closed eyes. A
choking sound issued from his throat, and he clutched
with his hands and pointed to his mouth.
An earthenware jar, containing cool water, stood
beside a tent but a few yards away. Hurling my
club at the most furious of the dogs, which, with
bared fangs, still threatened to attack the recumbent
man, I ran and seized the dor ok y regained his side,
and poured water between his parched lips.
The throng about me was strangely silent, until,
as tue poor old man staggered again to his feet, sup-
ported by my arm, a chorus arose about me — one
long, vowelled word, wholly unfamiliar, although
my Arabic was good. But I noted that all kept a
respectful distance from myself and the man whom
I had succored.
Then, pressing his way through the throng came
the Sheikh Said Mohammed. Saluting the ragged
stranger with a sort of grim respect, he asked him
if he desired entertainment for the night.
The other shook his head, mumbling, pointed to
the water jar, and by dint of gnashing his yellow
and pointed teeth, intimated that he required food.
Food was brought to him hurriedly. He tied it
up in a dirty cloth, grasped the water jar, and, with
never a glance at the Arabs, turned to me. With
174 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
his hand he touched his brow, his lips, and his breast
in salute; then, although tottering with weakness,
he made off again with that queer, loping gait.
The camp dogs began to howl, and a strange silence
fell upon the Arabs about me. All stood watching
the departing figure until it was lost in a dip of the
desert, when the watchers began to return again to
Sa'id Mohammed took my hand, and in a few
direct and impressive words thanked me for having
spared him and his tribe from a grave dishonor.
Need I say that I was flattered? Had you met him,
my friends, that fine Bedouin gentleman, polished
as any noble of old France, fearless as a lion, yet
gentle as a woman, you would know that I rejoiced
in being able to serve him even so slightly.
Two of the dogs, unperceived by us, had followed
the weird old man from the camp; for suddenly in
the distance I heard their savage growls. Then,
these growls were drowned in such a chorus of howl-
ing — the howling of jackals — as I had never before
heard in all my desert wanderings. The howling
suddenly subsided . . . but the dogs did not return.
I glanced around, meaning to address the Sheikh,
but the Sheikh was gone.
Filled with wonder, then, respecting this singular
incident, I entered the tent — it was at the farther
end of the camp — which had been placed at my dis-
posal, and lay down, rather to reflect than to sleep.
With my mind confused in thoughts of yellow-eyed
wanderers, of dogs, and of jackals, sleep came.
LORD OF THE JACKALS 175
How long I slept I cannot say ; but I was awakened
as the cool fingers of dawn were touching the crests
of the sand billows. A gray and dismal light filled
the tent, and something was scratching at the flap.
I sat up immediately, quite wide awake, and taking
my revolver, ran to the entrance and looked out.
A slinking shape melted into the shadows of the
tent adjoining mine, and I concluded that a camp
dog had aroused me. Then, in the early morning
silence, I heard a faint call, and peering through the
gloom to the east saw, in black silhouette, a solitary
figure standing near the extremity of the camp.
In those days, my friends, I was a brave fellow — ■
we are all brave at nineteen — and throwing a cloak
over my shoulders I strode intrepidly towards this
figure. I was within ten paces when a hand was
raised to beckon me.
It was the mysterious stranger! Again he
beckoned to me, and I approached yet nearer, asking
him if it was he who had aroused me.
He nodded, and by means of a grotesque kind of
pantomine ultimately made me understand that he
had caused me to be aroused in order to communicate
something to me. He turned, and indicated that we
were to walk away from the camp. I accompanied
him without hesitation.
Although the camp was never left unguarded, no
one had challenged us ; and, a hundred yards beyond
the outermost tent, this strange old man stopped
and turned to me.
First, he pointed back to the camp, then to myself,
176 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
then out along the caravan road towards the Nile.
**Do you mean^** I asked him — for I perceived
that he was dumb or vowed to silence — **that I am
to leave the camp?''
He nodded rapidly, his strange yellow eyes gleam-
** Immediately!" I demanded.
Again he nodded,
Pantomimioally he made me understand that death
threatened me if I remained — that I must leave the
Bedouins before sunrise.
I cannot convey to you any idea of the mad eamest-
hess of the man. But, alas ! youth regards the coun-
sels of age with nothing but contempt; moreover, I
thought this man mad, and I was unable to choke
down a sort of loathing which he inspired in me.
I shook my head then, but not unkindly; and,
waving my hand, prepared to leave him. At that,
with a sorrow in his strange eyes which did not fail
to impress me, he saluted me with gravity, turned,
and passed out of sight.
Although I did not know it at the time, I had chosen
of two paths the one that led through fire.
I slept little after this interview — if it was a real
interview and not a dream — and feeling tired and
imrefreshed, I saw the sun rise purple and angry
over the distant hills.
You know what khamsin is like, my friends ? But
you cannot know what simoom- is like — simoom ir
the heart of the desert! It came that morninir — l
LORD OF THE JACKALS 177
wall of sand so high as to shut out the sunlight, so
dense as to turn the day into night, so suffocating
that I thought I should never Kve through it I
It was apparent to me that the Bedouins were
prepared for the storm. The horses, the camels and
the asses were tethered in an enclosure specially
strengthened to exclude the choking dust, and with
their cloaks about their heads the men prepared
for the oncoming of this terror of the desert.
My God! it was a demon which sought to blind
me, to suffocate me, and which clutched at my throat
with strangling fingers of sand I This, I told myself,
was the danger which I might have avoided by quit-
ting the camp before sunrise.
Indeed, it was apparent to me that if I had taken
the advice so strangely offered, I might now have
been safe in the village of the Great Oasis for which
I was bound. But I have since seen that the simoom
was a minor danger, and not the real one to which
this weird being had referred.
The storm passed, and every man in the
encampment praised the merciful God who had
ripared us all. It was in the disturbance attendant
upon putting the camp in order once more that I
She came out from the tent of Said Mohammed,
to shake the sand from a carpet; the newly come
sunlight twinkled upon the bracelets which clasped
her smooth brown arms as she shook the gaily
colored mat at the tent door. The sunlight shone
upon >er braided hair, upon her slight robe, upon
178 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
her silver anklets, and upon her tiny feet. Trans-
fixed I stood watching — indeed, my friends, almost
holding my breath. Then the sunlight shone upon
her eyes, two pools of mysterious darkness into
which I found myself suddenly looking.
The face of this lovely Arab maiden flushed,
and drawing the comer of her robe across those
bewitching eyes, she turned and ran back into the
One glance — just one glance, my friends! But
never had Ulysses' bow propelled an arrow more
sure, more deadly. I was nineteen, remember, and
of Provence. What do you foresee ! You who have
been through the world, you who once were nine-
I feigned a sickness, a sickness brought about by
the sandstorm, and taking base advantage of that
desert hospitality which is unbounded, which knows
no suspicion, and takes no count of cost, I remained
in the tent which had been vacated for me.
In this voluntary confinement I learned little of
the doings of the camp. All day I lay dreaming of
two dark eyes, and at night when the jackals
howled I thought of the wanderer who had counseled
me to leave. One day, I lay so; a second; a third
again; and the women of Sai'd Mohammed 'g house-
hold tended me, closely veiled of course. But in
vain I waited for that attendant whose absence was
rendering my feigned fever a real one — whose eyes
burned like torches in my dreams and for the coming
of whose little bare feet across the sand to my tent
LORD OF THE JACKALS 179
door I listened hour by hour, day by day, in vain—
always in vain.
But at nineteen there is no such thing as despair,
and hope has strength to defy death itself. It was
in the violet dusk of the fourth day, as I lay there
with a sort of shame of my deception struggling for
birth in my heart, that she came.
She came through the tent door bearing a bowl
of soup, and the rays of the setting sun outlined her
fairy shape through the gossamer robe as she
At that my poor weak little conscience troubled
toe no more. How my heart leaped, leaped so that it
threatened to choke me, who had come safe through
a great sandstorm.
There is fire in the Southern blood at nineteen,
my friends, which leaps into flame beneath the
glances of bright eyes.
With her face modestly veiled, the Bedouin maid
knelt beside me, placing the wooden bowl upon the
groxmd. My eager gaze pierced the yashmak, but
her black lashes were laid upon her cheek, her
glorious eyes averted. My heart — or was it my
vanity? — told me that she regarded me at least with
interest, that she was not at ease in my company;
and as, having spoken no word, having ventured no
glance, she rose again to depart, I was emboldened
to touch her hand.
Like a startled gazelle she gave me one rapid
glance, and was gone!
She was gone — and my very soul gone with her I
180 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
For honrs I lay, not so mucli as thinMng of th«
food beside me — dreaming of her eyes. What were
my plans? Faith! Does one have plans at nine-
teen where two bright eyes are concerned?
Alas, my friends, I dare not tell yon of my hopes,
yet npon those hopes I lived. Oh, it is glorious to
be nineteen and of Provence ; it is glorious when all
the world is young, when the fruit is ripe upon the
trees and the plucking seems no sin. Yet, as we
look back, we perceive that at nineteen we were
The Bedouin girl is a woman when a European
woman is but a child, and Sakina, whose eyes could
search a man's soul, was but twelve years of age —
twelve ! Can you picture that child of twelve squeez-
ing a lover's heart between her tiny hands, entwining
his imagination in the coils of her hair?
You, my friend, may perhaps be able to conceive
this thing, for you know the East, and the women
of the East. At ten or eleven years of age many of
them are adorable; at twenty-one most of them are
passe; at twenty-six all of them — ^with rare excep-
tions — are shrieking hags.
But to you, my other friends, who are strangers
to our Oriental ways, who know not that the peach
only attains to perfect ripeness for one short hour>
it may be strange, it may be horrifying, that I loved,
with all the ardor which was mine, this little Arab
maiden, who, had she been bom in France, would
not yet have escaped from the nursery. But I
LORD OF THE JACKALS 181
The Arabs were encamped, of course, in the neigh-
borhood of a spring. It lay in a slight depression
amid the tiny palm-grove. Here, at sunset, came the
women with their pitchers on their heads, graceful
of carriage, veiled, mysterious.
Many peaches have ripened and have rotted since
those days of which I speak, but now — even now — ^I
am still enslaved by the mystery of Egypt's veiled
women. Untidy, bedraggled, dirty, she may be, but
the real Egyptian woman when she bears her pitcher
upon her head and glides, stately, sinuously, through
the dusk to the well, is a figure to enchain the
Very soon, then, the barrier of reserve which, like
the screen of the harem, stands between Eastern
Vomen and love, was broken. My trivial scruples I
had cast to the winds, and feigning weakness, I
would sally forth to take the air in the cool of the
evening ; this two days later.
My steps, be assured, led me to the spring; and
you who are men of the world will know that Sakina,
braving the reproaches of the Sheikh's household,
neglectful of her duties, was last of all the women
Who came to the well for water.
I taught her to say my name — ^Rene ! How sweet
it sounded from her lips, as she strove in vain to
roll the *E* in our Provencal fashion. Some ginnee
most certainly presided over this enchanted fountain,
for despite the nearness of the camp our rendezvous
Was never discovered, our meetings were never
182 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
With her pitcher upon the ground beside her, she
would sit with those wistful, wonderful eyes up-
raised to mine, and sway before the ardor of my
impassioned words as a young and tender reed sways
in the Nile breeze. Her budding soul was a love
lute upon which I played in ecstasy; and when she
raised her red lips to mine. . . . Ah! those nights
in the boundless desert ! God is good to youth, and
harsh to old age !
Next to Sai'd Mohammed, her father, Sakina's
brother was the finest horseman of the tribe, and
his white mare their fleetest steed. I had cast
covetous eyes upon this glorious creature, my
friends, and secretly had made such overtures as
were calculated to win her confidence.
Within two weeks, then, my plans were complete
— up to a point. Since they were doomed to failure,
like my great scheme, I shall not trouble you with
their details, but an hour before dawn on a certain
night I cut the camel-hair tethering of the white
mare, and, undetected, led the beautiful creature over
the silent sands to a cup-like depression, a thousand
yards distant from the camp.
The Bedouin who was upon guard that night had
with him a gourd of 'erhsoos. This was customary,
and I had chosen an occasion when the duty of filling
the sentinel's gourd had fallen upon Sakina; to his
'erhsoos I had added four drops of dark brown fluid
from my medicine chest.
It was an hour before dawn, then, when I stood
beside the white mare, watching and listening; it
LORD OF THE JACKALS 183
was an hour before dawn when she for whom my
great scheme was forgotten, for whom I was about
to risk the anger, the just anger, of men amongst
the most fierce in the known world, came running
fleetly over the hillocks down into the little valley,
and threw herself into my arms. . . .
When dawn burst in gloomy splendor over the
desert, we were still five hours' ride from the spot
where I had proposed temporarily to conceal myself,
with perhaps an hour's start of the Arabs. I knew
the desert ways well enough, but the ghostly and
desolate place in which I now found myself neverthe-
less filled me with foreboding.
A seam of black volcanic rock split the sands for
a great distance, forming a kind of natural wall of
forbidding aspect . In places this wall was pierced
by tunnel-like openings ; I think they may have been
prehistoric tombs. There was no scrap of verdure
visible, north, south, east or west; only desolation,
Band, grayness, and this place, ghostly and wan with
that ancient sorrow, that odor of remote mortality
Which is called **ihe dust of Egypt.''
Seated before me in the saddle, Sakina looked up
into my face with a never-changing confidence, hav-
ing her little brown fingers interlocked about my
neck. But her strength was failing. A short rest
Thus far I had detected no evidence of pursuit
and, descending from the saddle, I placed my weary
companion upon a rock over which I had laid a rug,
and poured out for her a draught of cool water.
184 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
Bread and dates were our breakfast fare; but
bread and dates and water are nectar and ambrosia
when they are sweetened with kisses. Oh ! the glori-
ous madness of youth ! Sometimes, my friends, I am
abnost tempted to believe that the man who . haa
never been wicked has never been happy I
Picture us, then, if you can, set amid that deso-
lation, which for us was a rose-garden, eating of
that unpalatable food — ^which for us was the food
of the gods !
So we remained awhile, deliriously happy, though
death might terminate our joys ere we again saw
the sun, when something . . . something spoke to
me . . .
Understand me, I did not say that someone spoke,
I did not say that anything audible spoke. But I
know that, unlocking those velvet arms which clung
to me, I stood up slowly — and, still slowly, turned
and looked back at the frowning black rocks.
Merciful God! My heart beats wildly now when
I recall that moment.
Motionless as a statue, but in a crouching atti-
tude, as if about to leap down, he who had warned
me so truly stood upon the highest point of the rocks
watching us I
How long did I remain thus!
I cannot pretend to say; but when I turned to
Sakina — she lay trembling on the ground, with her
face hidden in her hands.
Then, down over the piled-up rocks, this mys-
terious and ominous being came leaping. Old maii
LOKD OF THE JACKALS 185
though he was, he descended with the agility of a
mountain goat — and sometimes, in the difficult
places, he went on all fours.
Crossing the intervening strip of sand, he stood
before me. You have seen the reproach in the eyes
of a faithful dog whose master has struck him un-
justly? Such a reproach shone out from the yellow
eyes of this desert wanderer. I cannot account for
it ; I can say no more. . . .
It was impossible for me to speak; I trembled
violently ; such a fear and such a madness of sorrow
possessed me that I would have welcomed any death
—to have freed me from that intolerable reproach.
He suddenly pointed towards the horizon where
against the curtain of the dawn black figures
I fell upon my knees beside Sakina. I was a
poor, pitiable thing ; the madness of my passion had
left me, and already I was within the great Shadow ;
I could not even weep ; I knew that I had brought
Sakina out into that desolate place — ^to die.
And now the man whose ways were unlike human
ways began to babble insanely, gesticulating and
plucking at me. I cannot hope to make you feel
one little part of the emotion with which those
instants were laden. Sakina clung to me trembling
in a way I can never forget — ^never, never forget.
And the look in her eyes! even now I cannot bear
to think of it, I cannot bear
Those almost colorless lizards which dart about
in the desert places with incredible swiftness were
186 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
now coming forth from their nests ; and all the while
the black figures, unheard as yet, were approaching
along the path of the sun-
My mad folly grew more apparent to me every
moment. I realized that this which so rapidly was
overtaking me had been inevitable from the first.
The strange wild man stood watching me with that
intolerable glare, so that my trembling companion
shrank from him in horror.
But evidently he was seeking to convey some idea
to me. He gesticulated constantly, pointing to the
approaching Arabs and then over his shoulder to
the fro^vning rock behind. Since it was too late for
flight — for I knew that the white mare with a double
burden could never outpace our pursuers — it oc-
curred to me at the moment when the mulBQed beat
of hoofs first became audible, that this hermit of
the rocks was endeavoring to induce me to seek some
hiding-place with which no doubt he was acquainted
How I cursed the delay which had enabled the
Arabs to come up with us ! I know, now, of course,
that even had I not delayed, our ultimate capture
was certain. But at the moment, in my despair, I
And now I cursed the stupidity which had pre-
vented me from following this weird guide ; I even
thought wrathfully of the poor frightened child,
whose weakness had necessitated the delay and
whose fears had contributed considerably to this
The pursuing party, numbering four, and led by
LORD OF THE JACKALS 187
Said Mohammed, was no more than five hundred
yards away when I came to my senses. The hermit
now was tugging at my arm with frightful insist-
ence; his eyes were glaring insanely, and he chat-
tered in an almost pitiable manner.
**Quick!*' I cried, thromng my arm about Sakina,
**up to the rocks. This man can hide us!'*
**No, no I'* she whispered, **I dare not ''
But I lifted her, and signing to the singular being
to lead the way, staggered forward despairingly.
The distance was greater than it appeared, the
climb incredibly difficult. My guide held out his
hand to me to assist me to mount the slippery
rocks; but I had much ado to proceed and also to
Her terror of the man and of the place to which
he was leading us momentarily increased. Indeed,
it seemed that she was becoming mad with fear.
When the man paused before an opening in the
rocks not more than fifteen or sixteen inches i»
height, and wildly waving his arms in the air, his
elfin locks flying about his shoulder, his eyes glassy,
intimated that we were to crawl in — Sakina writhed
free of my grasp and bounded back some three or
four paces down the slope.
**Not in there!'' she cried, holding out her little
hands to me pitifully, **I dare not! He would de-
At the foot of the slope. Said Mohammed, who
had dismounted from his horse, and who, far ahead
of the others, was advancing towards us, at that
188 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
moment raised his gnn and fired. . . .
Can I go on!
It is more years ago than I care to connt, but
it is fresher in my mind than the things of yesterday.
A lonely old age is before me, my friends — for I
have been a solitary man since that shot was fired.
For me it changed the face of the world, for me it
ended youth, revealing me to myself for what I was.
Something more nearly resembling human speech
than any sound he had yet uttered burst from the
lips of the wild man as the report of Said Moham-
med's shot whispered in echoes through the mys-
terious labyrinths beneath us.
Fate had stood at the Sheikh's elbow as he pulled
With a little soft cry — I hear it now, gentle, but
having in it a world of agony — Sakina sank at my
feet . . . and her blood began to trickle over the
black rocks on which she lay.
The man who professes to describe to you his
emotions at such a frightful moment is an impostor.
The world grew black before my eyes; every
emotion of which my being was capable became
I heard nothing, I saw nothing but the little
huddled figure, that red stream upon the black rock,
and the agonized love in the blazing eyes of Sakina.
Groaning, I threw myself down beside her, and as
she sighed out her life upon my breast, I knew —
God heb3 me — ^that what had been but a youthful
LORD OF THE JACKALS 189
amour, was now a life's tragedy; that for me the
light of the world had gone out, that I should never
again know the warmth of the sun and the gladness
of the morning. . . .
The cave man, with a dog-like fidelity, sought
now to drag me from my dead love, to drag me into
that gloomy lair which she had shrunk from enter-
ing. His incoherent mutterings broke in upon my
semi-coma; but I shook him off, I shrieked curses
at him. . . .
Now the Bedouins were mounting the slope, not
less than a hundred yards below me. In the grow-
ing light I could see the face of Said Mohammed. . . .
The man beside me exerted all his strength to
drag me back into the gallery or cave — I know not
what it was ; but with my arms locked about Sakina
I lay watching the pursuers coming closer and closer.
Then, those persistent efforts suddenly ceased, and
dully I told myself that this weird being, having
done his best to save me, had fled in order to save
I was wrong.
You have asked me for a story of the magic of
Egypt, and although, as you see, it has cost me tears
— oh ! I am not ashamed of those tears, my friends !
' — ^I have recounted this story to you. You say,
where is the magic? and I might reply? the magic
was in the changing of my false love to a true. But
there was another magic as well, and it grew up
around me now at this moment when I lay inert,
waiting for death.
190 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
From behind me, from above me, arose a cry —
a cry. You may have heard of the Bedouin song,
"Ya men melek ana dSri waat sa jebb,
Id el' ish hoos' a beb hatsa azat ta lebb."
You may have heard how when it is sung in a
certain fashion, flowers drop from their stalks?
Also, you may have doubted this, ]iever having
heard a magical cry.
I do not doubt it, my friends ! For I have heard
a magical cry — this cry which arose from behind
me! It started some chord in my dulled conscious-
ness which had never spoken before. I turned my
head — and there upon the highest point of the rocka
stood the cave man. He suddenly stretched forth
Again he uttered that uncanny, that indescribable
cry. It was not human. It was not animal. Yet
it was nearer to the cry of an animal than to any
sound made by the human species. His eyes gleamed
with an awful light, his spare body had assumed a
strange significance ; he was transfigured.
A third time he uttered the cry, and out from one
of those openings in the rock which I have men-
tioned, crept a jackal. You know how a jackal avoids
the day, how furtive, how nocturnal a creature
it is? but there in the golden glory which pro-
claimed the coming of the sun, black silhouettes
A great wonder possessed me, as the first jacka!
was followed by a second, by a third, by a fourth.
LOBD OF THE JACKAJLS 191
by a fifth. Did I say a fifth? ... By five hmidred
— ^by five thousand I
From every visible hole in the rocks, jackals
poured forth in packs. Wonder left me, fear left
me ; I forgot my sorrow, I became a numbed intelli-
gence amid a desert of jackals. Over a sea of moving
furry backs, I saw that upstanding crag and the
weird crouching figure upon it. Right and left,
above and below, jackals moved . . . and all turned
their heads towards the approaching Bedouins 1
Again — again I heard that dreadful cry. The
jackals, in a pack, thousands strong, began to ad-
vance upon the Bedouins ! . . .
Not east or west, north or south, could you
hope to find a braver man than was the Sheikh Said
Mohammed; but — he fled!
I saw the four horsemen riding like furies into
the morning sun. The white mare, riderless, gal-
loped with them — and the desert behind was yellow
with jackals! For the last time I heard the cry.
The jackals began to return!
Forgive me, dear friends, if I seem an emotional
fool. But when I recovered from the swoon which
blotted out that unnatural spectacle, the wizard — •
for now I knew him for nothing less — had dug a
deep trench — and had left me, alone.
Not a jackal was in sight; the sun blazed cruelly
upon the desert. With my own hands I laid my
love to rest in the sands. No cross, no crescent
marks her resting-place; but I left my youth upoflQ
her grave, as a last offering.
192 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
Yon may say that, since I had sinned so griev-
ously, since I had betrayed the noble confidence of
Said Mohammed, my host, I escaped lightly.
Ah ! you do not know !
And what of the strange being whose gratitude I
had done so little to merit but yet which knew no
bounds? It is of him that I will tell you.
Years later — how many it does not matter, but I
Was a man with no illusions — ^my restless wander-
ings (I being still a desert bird-of -passage) brought
me one night to a certain well but rarely visited. It
lay in a depression, like another well that I am
fated often to see in my dreams, and, as one ap-
proached, the crowns of the palm trees which grew
there appeared above the mounds of sand.
I was alone and tired out ; the next possible camp-
ing-place — for I had no water — was many miles
away. Yet it was written that I should press on to
that other distant well, weary though I was.
First, then, as I came up, I perceived numbers of
vultures in the air ; and I began to fear that someone
near to his end lay at the well. But when, from the
top of a mound, I obtained a closer view, I saw a
sight that, after one quick glance, caused me to spur
up my tired horse and to fly — fly, with panic in my
The briUiant moon bathed the hollow in light and
cast dense shadows of the palm stems upon the slope
beyond. By the spring, his fallen face ghastly in
the moonlight, in a clear space twenty feet across,
lay a dead man.
LORD OF THE JACKALS 193
Even from where I sat I knew him; but, had I
doubted, other evidence was there of his identity.
As I mounted the slope, thousands of fiery eyes were
turned upon me.
God I that arena all about was alive with jackals
— jackals, my friends, eaters of carrion — ^which,
silent, watchful, guarded the wizard dead, who,
living, had been their lord!
LUBE OF SOULS
THIS is the story which Bernard Fane told
me one afternoon as we sat sipping China
tea in the Heliopolis Palace Hotel, follow-
ing a round upon the neighboring links.
The life of a master at the training college (said
Fane) is beastly uneventful, taken all around; not
even your keen sense of the romantic could long
survive it. The duties are not very exacting, cer-
tainly, and in our own way I suppose we are Empire
builders of a sort; but when you ask me for a true-
story of Egyptian life, I find myself floored at once.
We all come out with the idea of the mystic East
strong upon us, but it is an idea that rarely survive?
one summer in Cairo. Personally, I made a more
promising start than the average; an adventure
oame my way on the very day I landed in Port Said,
in fact it began on the way out. But alas ! it was not
only the first, but the last adventure which Egypt
has offered me.
I have not related the story more than five hun-
dred times, so that you will excuse me if I foozle
h in places. I will leave you to do the polishing.
On my first trip out, then, I joined the ship at
Marseilles, and saw my cabin trunk placed in a nica
LTJEE OF SOULS 195
deck berth, with the liveliest satisfaction. Walking
along the white promenade deck, I felt no end of a
man of the world. Every Anglo-Indian that I met
seemed a figure from the pages of Kipling, and when
I accidentally blundered into the ayahs' quarters, I
could almost hear the jangle of the temple bells, so
primed was I with traditions of the Orient — ^the
traditions one gathers from books of the lighter
sort, I mean.
You will see that in those days I was not a bit
blase; the glamour of the East was very real to m«.
For that matter, it is more real than ever, now;
Near or Far, the East has a call which, once heard,
can never be forgotten, and never be unheeded. But
the call it makes to those who have never been there
is out of tune, I have learned; or rather, it is not
in the right key.
Well, I had a most glorious bath — ^I am sybarite
enough to love the luxuriance of your modern liner
— got into blue serge, and felt no end of an adven-
turer. There was a notice on the gangway that the
steamer would not leave Marseilles until ten o^clock
at night, but I was far too young a traveller to risk
missing the boat by going ashore again. You know
the feeling? Consequently I took my place in the
saloon for dinner, and vaguely wondered why nobody
else had dressed for the function. I was a proper
Johnny Raw, no end of a Johnny Raw, but I enjoyed
it all immensely, nevertheless. I personally super-
intended the departure of the ship, and believed thdt
every deck-hand took me for a hardened glob#-
196 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
trotter ; and when at last I songht my cosy cabin, all
•potlessly white, with my trunk tucked under the
bunk, and, drawing the little red curtain, I sat down
to sum up the sensations of the day, I was thoroughly
satisfied with it all.
Gad! novelty is the keynote of life, don't you
think? When one is young, one envies older and
more experienced men, but what has the world left
of novelty to offer them? The simple matter of
joining a steamboat, and taking possession of my
berth, had afforded me thrills which some of my
fellow-passengers — those whom I envied the most
for the stories of life written upon their tanned
features — could only hope to taste by means of big-
game hunting, now, or other far-fetched methods of
It wore off a bit the next day, of course, and I
found that once one has settled do\sTi to it^ ocean
traveling is merely floating hotel life. But many of
my fellow-passengers (the boat was fairly full) still
appealed to me as books of romance which I longed
to open. And before the end of that second day,
I became possessed of the idea that there was som6
deep mystery aboard. Since this was my first voy-
age, something of that sort was to be expected of
me ; but it happened that I stood by no means alone
in this belief.
In the smoking-room, after dinner, I got into con-
versation with a chap of about my own age who was
bound for Colombo — ^tea-planting. We chatted on
different topics for half an hour, and discovered
LUEE OF SOULS 197
that we had mutual friends, or rather, the other
fellow discovered it.
**Have you noticed,'' he said, **a distinguished-
looking Indian personage, who, with three native
friends, sits at the small comer table on our leftT"
Hamilton — that was my acquaintance's name —
Was my right-hand neighbor at the chief officer's
table, and I recollected the group to which he re-
^'Yes," I replied; **who are they?"
'*I don't know," answered Hamilton, **but I have
a suspicion that they are mysterious."
**Well, they joined at Marseilles, just before your-
self. They were received by the skipper in person,
and two of them were closeted in his cabin for twenty
minutes or more."
**What do you make of that!'*
** Can't make anything of it, but their whole be-
havior strikes me as peculiar, somehow. I cannot
quite explain myself, but you say that you have
noticed something of the sort, yourself!"
**They certainly keep very much to themselves,"
I said. Hamilton glanced at me quickly.
''Naturally," he replied.
Not desiring to appear stupid, I did not ask him to
elucidate this remark, although at the time it meant
nothing to me. Of course I have learned since, as
everyone learns whose lines are cast among Orien-
tals, that iron barriers divide the races. But at the
time I knew nothing of this — as will shortly appear.
198 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
During breakfast on the following morning, I
glanced several times at the mysterious quartette.
They had been placed at a separate table and were
served with different courses from the rest of the
passengers. I was not the only member of the com-
pany who found them interesting, but the Anglo-
Indians on board, to a man, left the native party
severely alone. You know the icy aloofness of the
My second day at sea wore on, uneventfully
enough; the bugle had already announced the hour
for dressing, and the boat-deck outside my berth,
where I had had my chair placed, was practically
deserted, when something occurred to turn my
thoughts from the four Indians. It was a glorious
evening, with the sun setting out across the Mediter-
ranean in such a red blaze of glory that I sat watch-
ing it fascinatedly, my book lying unheeded on the
deck beside me. Eight and left of me men occupying
the other deck cabins had lighted up, and were busily
dressing. Right aft was a corner cabin, larger than
the others, and suddenly I observed the door of this
A slim figure glided out on to the deck, and began
to advance toward me. It proved to be that of a
woman or girl dressed in clinging black silk, and
wearing a yashmak! She had a richly embroidered
ehawl thrown over her head and shoulders, and in
that coy half-light she presented a dazzlingly beau-
It was my first sight of a t/ashmah, and, because
LURE OF SOULS 199
it was worn by a marvelonsly pretty woman, tho
thousands seen since have never entirely lost their
charm for me. I could detect the lines of an ex-
quisitely chiseled nose, and the long dark eyes of
the apparition were entirely unforgettable. The
hand with which she held her shawl about her was
of ivory smoothness, and, like a little red lamp, a
great ruby blazed upon the index finger.
With her high-heeled shoes tapping daintily upon
the deck she advanced; then, suddenly perceiving
that the promenade was not entirely deserted, she
turned, but not hastily or rudely, and glided back
to her cabin.
I have endeavored to outline for your benefit the
state of my mind at this period, hinting how keenly
alive I was to romance of any sort, provided it wore
the guise of the Orient ; so that it will be unnecessary
for me to explain how strong an impression this
episode made upon me. The Indian party was for-
gotten, and as I hastily dressed and descended to
dinner, I scarcely listened to Hamilton when he bent
toward me and whispered something about the
'* Strong Room."
My gaze was roaming about the spacious saloom
Even in those days I might have known better;
I might have known that no Mohammedan woman
would take her meals in a public saloon. But I was
too dazzled by my memories to summon to my aid
such fragments of knowledge respecting Eastern
customs as were mine.
«X) TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
Well, some little time elapsed before I saw or
heard anything further of the houri. I began to
settle down to the routine of the trip, and (you
know how news circulates through a ship?) it was
not very long before I knew as much as any of the
other passengers knew.
Hamilton was a sort of filter through which it
all came to me, and of course it was not undiluted,
but colored with his own views. The lady of the
yashmak, he informed me, was a member of the
household of a wealthy Moslem in the neighborhood
of Damascus. She was travelling via Port Said,
and taking a Khedivial boat from there to Beyrut.
He was a perfect mine of information, but his real
interest was centered all the time on the party of
*^They are emissaries of the Rajah of Bhotana,''
he informed me confidentially. **The mystery be-
gins to clear up. You must have read about a month
ago that Lola de PIris was selling some of her
jewelery and devoting the proceeds to the founding
of an orphanage or something of the kind; quite a
unique advertisement. Well, the famous Ladian dia •
mond presented to her by one of the crowned heads
of Europe was amongst the bunch which she sold;
and after staying in the West for over fifty years,
it is again on its way back to the East where it came
I began to recollect the circumstances, now; the
historic Indian diamond — I do not know Hindustani,
but its name translated means **Lure of Souls'' —
LUEE OF SOULS 201
had been in the possession of the dancer for many-
years, and its sale for such a purpose had turned
the limelight upon her most enviably. It was a new
idea in advertising, and had proved an admirable
So the four reticent gentlemen were the guardians
of the diamond. Under normal circumstances this
might have been interesting, but, as I have tried to
make clear, another matter engrossed my attention.
In fact, I was living in a dream-world.
Of course, my opportunity came, in due course.
One evening, as I mooned on the shadowy deck — *
which was quite deserted, because an extempore
dance was taking place on the deck below — she came
gliding along towards me. I could see her eyes
sparkling in the moonlight.
At first I feared that she was going to turn back.
She hesitated, in a wildly alluring manner, when
first she saw me sitting there watching her. Then,
turning her head aside, she came on, and passed me.
I never took my eyes off that graceful figure for a
Coming to the rail, she leaned and looked out
toward the coast of Crete, where silver tracings in
the blue marked the mountain peaks ; then, shivering
slightly, and wrapping her embroidered shawl more
closely about her shoulders, she retraced her steps.
Not a yard from where I sat, she dropped a little
silk handkerchief on the deck!
How my heart leapt at that ! the rest was a magical
whirl ; and ten seconds later I was chatting with her.
202 TALES OF SECBET EGYPT
She spoke fluent Frencli, but little English.
She appealed to me in a way that was new and
almost irresistible ; it was an appeal quite Oriental,
sensuous — indescribable. I just wanted to take her
in my arms and kiss those tantalizing lips; talking
seemed a waste of time. Of course, I cannot hope
to make you understand; but it was extraordinary.
I felt that I was losing my head; the glances of
those long dark eyes were setting me on fire.
Suddenly, she terminated this, our first tete-a-tete.
She raised her finger to her veiled lips and glided
away into the shadows like a phantom A sentence
died, unfinished, on my tongue. I turned, and looked
over my shoulder.
Gad ! I got a fright ! A most hideous Oriental of
some kind, having only one eye but that afire with
malignancy, was watching me from where he stood
half concealed by a boat.
My lily of Damascus was guarded I
Humming, with an assumption of unconcern, I
strolled away and joined the dancers below.
That was the beginning, then. I cursed to think
how short a time was at my disposal; but since,
the very next morning, I found myself enjo}dng
a second delicious little stolen interview, I perceived
that my company was not unacceptable.
What ? oh, I had lost my head entirely ; I admit it.
It was an effort to speak of matters ordinary,
LUEE OF SOULS 203
topics of the ship; my impulse was to whisper de-
licioils nonsense into those tiny ears. However, I
forced myself to talk about things in general, and
told her that the famous diamond. Lure of Souls,
This was news to her, and she seemed to be
tremendously interested. Her interest was of such a
childish sort, so naive, that the project grew up in
my mind at that very moment — the project that was
to terminate so disastrously. It was hardly a matter
of so many words ; there was nothing definite about
the thing at all, and this, our second interview, wa?
cut short in much the same manner as the first.
With those whispered words, and a dazzling smile,
this jewel of Damascus who interested me so much
more deeply than the Rajah's diamond, departed
hurriedly — and I turned to meet again the malignant
^aze of the wall-eyed guardian.
The sort of romance in which I was steeped at
that time flourishes and grows fat upon incidents
of this kind. I have searched my memory many a
time since then, for some word or hint to prove that
the conversation about the diamond was opened and
guided in a desired direction by the lady of the
yashmak; but excluding transmission of thought, I
could never find any evidence of the kind — have
never been able to do so.
Certainly my memories of that period are hazy
except in regard to Nahemah. If I were an artist,
I could paint her portrait from memory without
204 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
the slightest error, I think. She occupied my
thoughts to the exclusion of all else. But the project
was formed and carried out. Hamilton was one of
those popular men who seem born to occupy the
chair at any kind of meeting at which they may be
present; he organized almost every entertainment
that took place on board. At first he was not at all
keen on the idea.
** There are all sorts of difficulties," he said; *'and
one doesn^t care to ask a favor of a native. At any
rate one doesn't care to be refused.''
But I had set my heart upon gratifying Nahe-
mah's curiosity, and, with the aid of Hamilton, it
was all arranged satisfactorily. The native guar-
dians of the diamond were rather flattered than
otherwise, and a select little party of the **best"
people on board met in the chief officer's cabin to
view Lure of Souls.
The difficulty in regard to Nahemah was readily
overcome by Hamilton the energetic, and Dr. Patter-
son's wife *Hook her up" for the occasion in a de-
lightfully patronizing manner. The four swarthy,
polite Orientals were there, of course ; several other
ladies in addition to Mrs. Patterson and Nahemah,
the chief officer, myself, Hamilton, and a sepulchral
Scotch curate, the Rev. Mr. Rawlingson, whom I
had scarcely noticed hitherto, and whose presence at
this ** select" gathering rather surprised me.
The sea was like a sheet of glass, and this was
the hottest day which I had yet experienced. It
was about an hour before lunch-time when we
LURE OF SOULS 205
gathered to view the diamond ; and Mr. Brodie, the
chief officer, exercised his pawky humor in a series
of elaborate pantomimic precautions, locking the
door with labored care, and treating the ladies of
the company to Bluebeard glances of frightful
Phew! if we had only known! . . .
Finally one of the Indians took out the diamond
from its case — which had been brought from the
strong-room a few minutes before. It was a wonder-
ful thing, I suppose, of quite unusual size, and it
sparkled and gleamed in the sunlight streaming
through the open porthole in an absolutely dazzling
fashion. I had ranged myself close beside Nahemah.
Each of us was permitted to handle the stone. It
was I who passed it to her, Mr. Rawlingson having
passed it to me. She held it in the palm of her
little hand, and her eyes sparkled with childish de-
light as she bent to examine the gem. Then a very
strange thing happened.
From somewhere behind me — ^I was sitting with
iny back to the porthole — a dull gray object came
leaping and twirling; and a scorpion — I have never
seen a larger specimen — fell upon Nahemah *s wrist!
She uttered a piercing cry, dropped the diamond
and brushed the horrid insect from her wrist; then
fell swooning into my arms. . . .
A scene of incredible confusion followed. The
four Indians, ignoring the presence of the scorpion,
dropped like cats upon the floor, seeking for Lure
of Souls. Mrs. Patterson and I carried Nahemah
206 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
to the sofa hard by and laid her upon it. Just a&
we did so the scorpion darted from between the end
of the sofa and the wardrobe, and the chief officer
put his foot upon it.
Ensuing events were indescribable. Since the dia-
mond had not yet been picked up, obviously the
cabin door could not be unlocked; so in the stuffy
atmosphere of the place it was a matter of some diffi-
culty to revive Nahemah. Meanwhile, four wild-eyed
Indians were creeping about amongst our feet — ^like
cats, as I have said before.
In the end, just as the girl began to revive some-
what, it became evident that Lure of Souls was miss-
ing. A pearl shirt button, the ownership of which
we were unable to establish, was picked up, but no
The chief officer showed himself a man of price-
less tact. He rang for the stewardess, and the ladie?
were shepherded to a neighboring, vacant cabin
Then the door was relocked, and Mr. Brodie pro-
ceeded to strip, placing his garments one by one
upon the little folding table for examination. He
was not satisfied until every man present had over-
hauled them. We all followed his example, the Rev.
Mr. Rawlingson last of all . . . and Lure of Souls
was still on the missing list !
Then we gave the chief officer's cabin such a turn-
out as it had never had before, I should assume.
Our quest was unrewarded. Meanwhile, the ladies
had been submitted to a similar search in the adjoin-
ing cabin ; same result.
LURE OF SOULS 207
With great difficulty we succeeded in hushing up
the matter to a certain extent; but the captain's
language to the chief officer was appalling, and the
chief officer's remarks to Hamilton were equally un-
parliamentary; whilst Hamilton seemed to consider
that he was justified in placing the whole blame upon
me, which he did in terms little short of insulting.
The four Indians apparently regarded all of us with
equal suspicion and animosity.
I could not foresee the end. The thing was so
sudden, so serious, that at the time it banished even
thoughts of Nahemah from my mind. I anticipated
that we should all find ourselves arrested when we
reached Port Said.
Later in the day Hamilton walked into my cabin
and placed a little cardboard box upon the dressing-
table. It contained the crushed body of the scorpion.
** Where did that scorpion come from?'' he de-
It was a question which already had been asked
fully a thousand times, yet no one had discovered
an intelligent reply.
I shook my head.
*'It came from the open porthole," he replied,
^'*and as it's a thousand to one against a scorpion
being aboard, somebody was carrying it for this
very purpose — somebody who was on the deck out-
side the chief officer's cabin and who threw the
scorpion into the cabin. ' '
**But such a deadly thing. . . /'
**Have a good look," said Hamilton, turning the
208 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
insect over with a lead pencil; *Hhis one isn't deadly
at all. See ! — ^his tail has been cut off ! ' '
I looked and stifled an exclamation. It was as
Hamilton had said. The scorpion was harmless.
I never once set eyes upon Nahemah again until
we arrived at Port Said. Then I saw her preparing
to go ashore in one of the boats. I managed to join
her, ignoring the scowls of her one-eyed attendant,
and we arrived at the quay together. Right there
by the water's edge a most curious scene was being
enacted. Surrounded by two or three passengers
and a perfect ring of uniformed officials, Hamiltcn,
very excited, watched his baggage being turned out
upon the ground. He saw me approaching.
**Hang it all, Fane,'* he cried, ^^this is disgrace-
ful! — I don't know upon whose orders they are
acting, but the beastly police are searching my
baggage for the diamond. ..."
I thought it very extraordinary and said as muc^
to the Rev. Mr. Rawlingson, who was one of the
**It is very strange mdeed,'' he said mildly, turn-
ing his gold-rimmed spectacles in my direction.
A moment later, to my horror and indignation,
Nahemah was submitted to the same indignity ! The
crowd had been roped off from the part of the
quay upon which we stood, and I could see that the
whole thing had been arranged beforehand in some
way, probably by wireless from the ship. Curiously,
as I thought at the time, my own baggage was not
LURE OF SOULS 209
examined in this way, but I was detained long enough
to lose sight of Nahemah and her one-eyed guardian.
"When I got to the hotel I indulged in some reflection.
It occurred to me that Hamilton was bound for
Colombo, which made it rather singular that he
should have had his baggage put ashore at Port
I should have liked to have searched the town
for my lady of the yashmak , but having no clue
to her present whereabouts, realized the futility of
such a proceeding. My last thought before I fell
asleep that night was that some day in the near
future I should visit Damascus.
I saw very little of Port Said, for we had arrived
m the early morning and I was departing for Cairo
by a train leaving shortly before midday. I wan-
dered about the quaint streets a bit, however, and
wondered if, from one of the latticed windows over-
hanging me, the dark eyes of Nahemah were peering
Although I looked up and down the train fairly
carefully, I failed to find among the passengers any-
one whom I knew, and I settled down into my comer
to study the novel scenery uninterruptedly. The
shipping in the canal fascinated me for a long time
as did the figures which moved upon its shores. The
ditches and embankments, aimlessly wandering foot-
paths, and moving figures which seemed to belong to
210 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
a thousand years ago, seized upon my imagination
as they seize upon the imagination of every traveller
when first he beholds them.
But, properly speaking, my story jumps now to
Zagazig. The train stopped at Zagazig; and, walk-
ing out into the corridor and lowering a window, I
was soon absorbed in contemplation of that unique
town. Its narrow, dirty, swarming streets; the
millions of flies that boarded the train; the noisy
vendors of sugar cane, tangerine oranges and other
commodities ; the throng beyond the barriers gazing
open-mouthed at me as I gazed open-mouthed at
them — it was a first impression, but an indelible one.
I was not to know it was written that I should
spend the night in Zagazig; but such was the case.
Generally speaking, I have found the service on
the Egyptian State Railway very good, but a hitch
of some kind occurred on this occasion, and after
an hour or so of delay, it was definitely announced
to the passengers that owing to an accident to the
permanent way, the journey to Cairo could not be
continued until the following morning.
Then commenced a rush which I did not under-
stand at first, and in which, feeling no desire to
exert myself unduly, I did not participate. Half
an hour later I ascertained that the only two hotels
which the place boasted were full to overflowing,
and realized what the rush had meant. It was all
part of the great scheme of things, no doubt; but
when, thanks to the kindly, if mercenary, offices of
the International Sleeping Car attendant, I found
LUEE OF SOULS 211
myself in possession of a room at a sort of native
khan in the lower end of the town, I experienced no
very special gratitude towards Providence.
I have enjoyed the hospitality of less pleasing
caravanserai since, but this was my first experience
of the kind, and I thought very little of it.
My room boasted a sort of bed, certainly, but
without entering into details, I may say that there
were earlier occupants who disputed its possession.
The plaster of the walls — ^the place apparently was
built of a mixture of straw and dried mud — ^pro-
vided residence not only for mosquitoes, but also for
ants, and the entire building was redolent of an
odor suggestive of dried bones. That smell of dried
bones is characteristic, I have learned, of the sites
of ancient Egyptian cities (Zagazig is close to the
ruins of ancient Bubastis, of course) ; one gets it in
the temples and the pyramids, also. But it was
novel to me, then, and not pleasing.
I killed time somehow or other until the dinner
hour; and the train, which now reposed in a siding,
became a rendezvous for those who desired to pat-
ronize the dining-car. Evidently no sleeping-cars
were available (or perhaps that idea was beyond the
imagination of the native officials), and having left
a trail of tobacco smoke along the principal native
street, I turned into my apartment which I shared
with the ants, mosquitoes — and the other things.
An examination of my rooms by candle-light re-
vealed the presence of a cupboard, or what I thought
to be a cupboard, but opening the double doors I
212 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
saw that it was a window, latticed and overlooking
a lower apartment ; so much I perceived by the light
of an oil lamp which stood upon the table. Then,
stifling a gasp of amazement, I hastily snuffed my
candle and peered down eagerly at that incredible
scene. . . .
Nahemah, longer veiled, was sitting at the table,
and opposite to her was seated the hideous wall-
They were conversing in low tones, so that, strive
as I would, I could not overhear a word. You ask
me why I spied upon the lady^s privacy in this man-
ner? For a very good reason.
Midway between the two, upon the rough boards
of the table, lay Lure of Souls, twinkling and glitter-
ing like a thing of incarnate light.
I observed that there was a door to the room
below, almost immediately opposite the window
through which I was peering . . . and this door was
opening very slowly and noiselessly. At least, I
could hear no noise, but the one-eyed man detected
something, for suddenly he started up and did a
remarkable thing. Snatching up the diamond from
the table, he clapped it into the eyeless cavity of
his skull and turned in a twinkling to face the
Then the door was thrown open, and Hamilton
leapt into the room.
I could scarcely credit my senses. Honestly, I
thought I was dreaming. Hamilton's whole face
was changed: a hard, cunning look had come over
LUEE OF SOULS 213
it, and he held a revolver in his hand. Nahemah
sprang to her feet as he entered, but he covered the
pair of them with his revolver, and pointing to the
one-eyed man muttered something in a low voice.
Rage, fear, rebellion chased in turn across the evil
features of One-eye ; but there was something about
Hamilton's manner that cowed.
Manipulating the sunken eyelids as though they
had been of rubber, the guardian of the veiled lady
slipped the diamond into the palm of his hand and
tossed it, glittering, on to the table.
Hamilton's expression of triumph I shall never
forget. One step forward he took and was about
to snatch up the gem when — out of the dark cavity
of the doorway behind him stepped a second
It was the Rev. Mr. Rawlingson !
The reverend gentleman's behavior was most nn-
clerical. He leapt upon the unsuspecting Hamilton
like a panther and screwed the muzzle of a revolver
into that gentleman's right ear with quite unneces-
*^You have been wasting your time, Farland!"
he snapped in a voice that was quite new to me.
**That is, unless you have turned amateur detective."
He made no attempt to reach for the diamond,
but just held out his hand, and with his eyes fixed
upon Hamilton, silently commanded the latter to
hand over the gem. This Hamilton did with pal-
pable reluctance. Mr. Rawlingson, who, though still
clerically garbed, had discarded his spectacles,,
214 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
slipped the stone into his pocket, snatched the re-
volver from Hamilton's hand and jerked his thumb
in the direction of the open door. Hamilton shrugged
his shoulders and walked out of the room. For
scarce a moment did Rawlingson's eyes turn to fol-
low the retreating figure, but the chance was good
enough for the wall-eyed man.
He launched himself through space like nothing
so much as a kangaroo, bearing Rawlingson irre-
sistibly to the floor! With his lean hands at the
other's throat he turned his solitary eye upon Nahe-
mah, muttering something gutturally. After a
moment's hesitation she ran from the room.
Twenty seconds later I was downstairs, and ten
seconds after that was helping Rawlingson to his
feet. He was considerably shaken and boasted a
very elegant design in bruises which was just be-
ginning to reveal itself upon his throat; but other-
wise he was unhurt.
* ^ I have lost her, Mr. Fane ! ' ' were his first words.
'*She knows this part of the world inside out. I
have no case against Farland, but I am sorry to
have lost the woman. ' '
Was my mind in a whirl? Did I think that mad-
ness had seized me f Replies both in the afi&rmative ;
I was simply staggered.
I always go to pieces with this part of the yam,
being an unpractised narrator, as I have already ex-
plained ; but I may relieve your mind upon one point.
I never saw Nahemah and the one-eyed man again,
LURE OF SOULS 215
nor have I since set eyes upon Hamilton. Mr. Raw-
lingson, the last time I heard from him, was in
The explanation of the whole thing was something
of a blow to me, of course. The lily of Damascus
who had fascinated me so hopelessly was no Eastern
at all; you will have guessed as much. She was a
Frenchwoman, I believe ; at any rate they had a long
record up against her in Paris. She had gone out
after Lure of Souls, and very ingeniously had made
me her instrument. As Mr. Rawlingson explained
to me, what had probably taken place was this :
The harmless scorpion, specially brought along for
eome such purpose, had been thrown into the chief
officer's cabin from the open porthole by the one-
eyed villain. That had been the cue for Nahemah
to drop the shirt button, and, whilst the occupants
of the cabin were in confusion, to toss the diamond
out on to the deck where her accomplice was waiting.
The search of their effects had been futile, of course ;
no one had thoughts of searching the eye-cavity of
her Eastern companion.
Where did Hamilton come in? Hamilton was one
James Farland, an American crook of the highest
accomplishments, known to the police of the entire
civilized world. He, too, had gone out for Lure of
Souls, but the woman, his professional competitor,
had proved too clever for him.
The Rev. Mr. Rawlingson? He was Detective-
Lispector Wexford of New Scotland Yard. Yes,
it's a rotten story, from a romantic point of view.
THE SECRET OF ISMAIL
MUSTAPHA MIRZA knew it— Mustapha
Mirza, the blind Persian who makes shoes
hard by the Bab ez-Zuwela and in the very
shadow of the minarets of Muayyad; Hassan es-
Siwa of the Street of the Carpet-sellers in the Muski,
Hassan, who, where another man has hands, has
but hideous stumps, knew it, and because of him it
was that Abdul Moharli sought it — Abdul the men-
dicant who crouches on the steps of the Blue Mosque
muttering, guttural, inarticulate, and pointing to the
tongueless cavity of his mouth. Now I know it ; but
not from Abdul Moharli: may Allah, the Great, the
Compassionate, defend me!
I say *^May Allah defend me," yet I am no Mos-
lem ; I have no spot of Egyptian blood in my veins.
No, I am a pure Greek of Cos, of Cos the home of the
loveliest women in the world; and my mother was
one of these, whilst my father was a Cretan, and a
true descendent of Minos. My story perhaps will
not be believed, for always it has been my fate to
be maligned. You will ask, perhaps, what I was
doing in the Mazi Desert between Beni Suef and the
Red Sea, but I reply that my cotton interests — ^for
I have cotton interests in the Delta — often lead
THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 21V
me far afield. You do not understand the cotton in-
dustry or this explanation would be unnecessary.
It is only those who do not understand the cotton
industry that speak of hashish. Hashish! I leave
it to the Egyptians and the Jews to deal in hashish;
I am neither a Jew nor an Egyptian, but a Greek of
Cos, who would not soil his hands with such a trade
Upon my business, then, my legitimate business,
I found myself with a small company of servants
encamped by the Wadi Araba. At the Wadi Araba
I had a commercial acquaintance, a sheikh of the
Mazi Arabs. Those villains who say that he was a
** go-between," that my business was not with him,
but through him with a port of the Red Sea, dare
not say as much to my face; for there is a law in
the land — even in the land of Egypt, now that the
British hold power here.
I had reached the point, then, whereat it was my
custom to meet my business acquaintance and to
discuss certain affairs in which we were interested.
My servants had erected the tent in which I was to
sleep, and the camels lay in a little limestone valley
to the west, their eyes mild because they knew that
the day's work was ended; for it is a foolish mistake
to suppose that the eye of a camel is mild at any
other time. The camel knows the secret name of
Allah — and that name is Rest.
The violet after-glow, which is the most wonder-
ful thing in Nature, crowned the desert with glory
right away to the porphyry mountains. I stood at
218 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
my tent door looking westward to the Nile. I stood
looking out upon the waste of the sands, the eternal
sands which are a belt about Egypt ; and my thoughts
running fleetly before me, crossed the desert, crossed
the Nile, and came to rest in the verdant, fertile
Faylim, its greenness sweet to look upon in the heat
of such an evening, its palms fashioned in ebony
black against the wondrous sky. Yes, I, who am a
Greek, love the Fayum more than any spot on earth;
the modem clamor and dust of Cairo are hateful to
me, although my business often takes me there, and
also to Alexandria, the most European city in the
East, and to me the most detestable. But my busi-
ness is in the Delta and it is a good business, so why
should I complain?
I stood at my tent door, and I thought of many
things, though little of the matters which had brought
me there; a faint cool breeze fanned my brow, and
about me was that great peace which comes to Egypt
with the touch of night. My servants were silent in
their encampment, and the shrieking of the camels
had ceased. About me, then, all was sleeping; only
I was awake, only I was there to receive Abdul
Moharli and his secret — the secret of Ismail.
By the pattering of his bare feet upon the sand,
I first learned of his coming, but for a long time I
could not see him, for his way led him through the
valley where the camels slept, and a mound obscured
my view. But presently I heard his panting breaths
and his little delirious cries of fear, which were like
sobs, and presently, again, I saw him staggering
THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 219
over the slope. At the sight of me he uttered one
last gasping cry and fell forward on his face uncon-
scious — like a dead man.
I hurried to him, stooped and raised him. His
face was dreadful to look upon. His eyes were
sunken in his skull, and his flesh shrivelled as by
long fasting. His beard was filthy, knotted and
unkempt, and his hair a black mat streaked with
dirty gray. He was thin as a mummy and the bones
protruded through his skin. He was as one who is
dying from excess of hashish.
Ah! I know how they look, those poor fools who
poison themselves with the Indian hemp. I wonder
Allah does not strike do^vn the villain who places
that poison within their reach. I use the term
'* Allah '* because my business brings me much in
contact with the natives, but I am no Moslem, as I
have related. Father Pierre of Alexandria can tell
you how devoted a Christian I am.
Drink and food revived him somewhat; and as I
sat beside him in my tent that night he babbled to
me, half deliriously; he raved, and to another it
might have seemed the fancies of a poor madman
which he poured into my ears. For he spoke of a
secret oasis and of a sheikh who had lived since the
days of Sultan Kalaun; of a treasure vast as that of
Suleyman — and of magic, black magic; of the trans-
muting of gold and the making of diamonds.
But I, who am a Greek, and one who has lived all
his life between Alexandria and the Red Sea; I who
know the Garden ^^ E-^yiit as another knows the
220 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
palm of his hand — I detected in this delirium the
shadow of a truth. To me it became evident that
this wretched being who had fled, a hunted thing,
over the trackless desert for many days and nights
— it became evident to me, I say, that he spoke of
the far-famed secret of Ismail.
You would ask: What is the secret of Ismail?
I would tell you, ask it of Hassan the Handless, of
Mustapha, the blind Persian of the Bab ez-Zuwela;
better still, ask it of any son of the Fayiim, of any
man of the Llazi. None of them will answer you,
for none save Hassan and Mustapha knows the
strange truth — Hassan and Mustapha, and Abdul
Moharli . . . and no one of these three knows all,
nor will reveal what he knows.
Ah! how my heart leapt and how my eyes must
have gleamed in the darkness of the tent, yet how
^old a fear clutched at the life within me. The night
seemed suddenly to become a thin curtain veiling
eyes that watched, the empty desert a hiding-place
for unseen multitudes that listened ; the faint breeze
raising the flap of the tent, ever so gently, ever so
softly, assumed the shape of a malignant hand that
reached for my throat, that sought to stifle me ere
the secret, the deathly secret of Ismail should be
Abdul Moharli was the name of this wanderer;
and as he spoke to me, gulping down great draughts
of water between the words, ever he glanced to righ^
and left, over his shoulder and all about him,
**It is four days from here/' he whispered hoarse-
THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 221
ly; **due south in the direction of the porphyry
quarries and the Mountain of Smoke. There is a
tiny village and all the inhabitants are of the race
of Said Ebn al As, being descendants of the com-
panion of the prophet. I had long supposed that this
race of heretics was extinct; but it is not so, my
benefactor; with these eyes, have I seen the houses
wherein they dwell. By the strategy of which I have
spoken did I penetrate to their secret dwelling-place
and win their unsuspecting love."
And then, clutching me to him with his bony
hands, he spoke in hushed and fearful tones of the
house of the Sheikh Ismail Ebn al As. It was the
fabled treasure of this holy man which had been the
lodestone drawing Abdul Moharli out into the desert.
Something of his fear, of his constant apprehension
seized upon me too; and as he glanced trem}>'ingly
first over this shoulder and then over that, so like-
wise did I glance, until I seemed to crouch in a world
of spies listening to a secret greater than that of the
I pronounced the Takhtr, ** Great is the Lord!''
—a superstitious custom which I have acquired from
my business acquaintances. I made the sign of the
Cross and called upon the name of the Holy Virgin.
Almost I feared to listen further, yet I lacked the
courage to abstain.
**Not with mine eyes have I beheld the treasure
of Ismail,'' he whispered to me, this shadow of a
man, this living mummy, those same eyes rolling in
thair sunken sockets; **nor with mine ears have I
222 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
heard it named. These hands have never touched
it ; yet the secret of Ismail is my secret. * '
So far he had proceeded and no further, when a
slight noise, that was not of my imagination, came
from immediately outside the tent. On the instant
I sprang forth . . . but no one was there and nothing
now disturbed the solitude of the desert about me.
A moment I stood, peering to left and right, into
the void of the velvet dusk ; no more than a moment,
I can swear, yet long enough for that dreadful thing
to happen — that thing which sometimes haunts my
Shrill and awful upon the silence it burst; the
scream of a stricken man. It stabbed me like a
knife; and as a creature of clay I stood, unable to
stir or think. It died away, in a long wail of pain,
that gave place to a guttural, inarticulate babbling
— a choking, sobbing sound indescribable, but that
may not be forgotten once it has been heard.
No living thing, as I can tesitfy, entered or lef^
the tent ; so far the evidence of my senses bears me.
But that one had entered and left it, unseen, I
learned, when, throwing off this palsy of horror, I
staggered back to the side of the one who knew the
secret of Ismail.
He lay writhing upon the ground; blood issued
from his mouth. The tongue of Abdul Moharli had
been torn out !
THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 225
Three weeks later I had my first sight of the
secret oasis. The fate from which Ahdul had fled
had overtaken him as I have related, in my tent^
and from that moment until we parted company —
for this poor wretch survived his mutilation — not
another hint could I glean from him respecting the
discovery for which he had paid so terrible a price.
In the first place, he lacked the accomplishment
of writing and in the second place his fear of the
vengeance of Ismail had become a veritable mad-
ness. I left him at Beni Suef, filled with a determi-
nation to probe this mystery for myself. Suitably
prepared for such an undertaking I set out alone
from Der Byad, and undertook the four days' jour-
ney which I had planned.
In a little gorge, arid, shadeless, in which only a
few stunted tamarisks grew, but affording a sort
of hiding-place for myself and my camel, I made
my base of operations. Provisions of a sort I had
plenty, but for water I must depend on the secret
oasis, which I estimated to be not more than four
miles distant. In the dead of night I set out, making
for a series of mounds or hillocks rising up from the
rocky face of the plateau. Cautiously I ascended
their slopes, ever watchful and with eagerly beating
heart ; and it was lying prone upon the crest of the
greatest of these that I first saw the village and
There was nothing extraordinary in the appear-
224 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
ance of the village ; it presented to the eye the usual
group of small, squat houses clinging to the trunks
of the pahn trees and surrounding a shrine or
mosque boasting a wooden minaret. There were
tilled fields and palm groves to the left of the
village and a large house surrounded by white walls
embracing extensive gardens. My spirits rose high.
Within that house lay the secret of Ismail.
I determined to approach from the left, where I
should be able to take advantage of the far-cast
shadows of the palm groves and of the direction of
the faint breeze; for most of all I feared the dogs,
without which no Arab village is complete. Sure
enough, although I had elected to approach the left
of the village and although I crawled laboriously
upon hands and knees, the accursed brutes appar-
ently scented me or heard me and made night hideous
with their clamor.
Flat upon the ground I lay, awaiting the dogs
who bore down upon me snarling, their fangs bared.
I had come prepared for this; but, mysteriously,
at a point by the end of the palm grove and some
twenty yards away from me, the pack halted, and
after a time became silent. This was unaccountable
but fortunate; and after waiting a while longer to
learn if anyone had been aroused by the outcry, I
advanced towards the wall of the garden, passing
stealthily from palm to palm.
I observed that the mosque was a more important
building than I had supposed, with a tomb on the
right of the entrance surmounted by a white dome.
THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 225
iA. passage leading to the courtyard, which presented
a charming picture in the moonlight, its fountain
overshadowed by acacias, reminded me very much
of that in the Mosque of Muayyad in Cairo. As in
i'he latter, a double arcade surrounded it on three
sides and the columns were of some kind of marble
and sculptured with inscriptions in Arabic. I had
a glimpse of a blue- tiled sanctuary, through a fine
mushrabiyeh screen beneath the pointed arches.
Arabesques in colored glass rendered the windows
very beautiful to look upon. Nothing stirred within
the village, as I crept along the narrow lane separat-
ing the mosque from the wall of the garden. Beyond
prospecting the ground, I had no definite plans for
to-night ; but Fate had willed it that I was to become
laore deeply involved in the affair than I had de-
signed or intended.
A side door opened from the garden at a spot
nearly opposite the little wooden platform which
served as the minaret of the mosque; and the mud
bricks of the porch were so broken and decayed
by time that I perceived here an opportunity of
mounting to the top of the wall, an opportunity of
which I instantly availed myself.
Yes, in spite of my peaceful calling (I have ex-
plained that I have cotton interests in the Delta)
my life has not been unadventurous nor have I
ever hesitated to incur risk where profit might be
gained. Therefore, having climbed to the top of
the wall, unmolested, and perceiving at a spot some
little distance to the right a sort of trellis overgrown
226 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
with purple blossom, I did not hesitate to make for
it and to descend into the garden. I had just, com-
pleted the descent, and stood looking cautiously
about me, when a sound disturbed the silence — a
sound so entirely unexpected, in that place, at such
an hour, that it turned my blood cold, bringing to my
mind all those stories of the black magic for which
the people of this oasis were famed.
It was the sound of a woman singing ; and although
the song she sang was a familiar Arab love song
and the voice of the singer was sweet, if very mourn-
ful, the effect, as I have said, was weird to a degree.
Ashilc yekul Vil hammdm hat le genahdk yom
(A lover said to a dove, "Lend me your wings for
a day," etc.)
Overcoming the fear and astonishment which
momentarily had deprived me of action, I advanced
with the utmost caution in the direction from whence
this mysterious singing seemed to proceed. Passing
an angle of the house, where the stucco wall ran
sheerly up to a mushrahiyeh window, I perceived
before me a smaller, detached building in the form
of a sort of pavilion. Some fine acacias overhung its
white and glistening dome, in which were little win-
dows of colored glass. Concealed in the shadow of
the house, I stood looking towards this smaller build-
ing, observing with astonishment that it possessed
a massive, bronze-mounted door.
Indeed, in many respects, and in spite of the
charming picture which its jeweled appearance pre-
sented, it might well have been the tomb of some holy
THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 227
Sheikh. But seated on an old-fashioned mastdhak
before the entrance were two huge negroes of most
ferocious aspect, armed with scimitars which glit-
tered evilly in the light of the moon!
I drew back sharply into the shelter of the pro-
jecting wall. One of the negroes seemed to slumber,
but the wicked black eyes of his companion were
widely open and he revealed his ivory teeth in a
frightful leer. The beating of my heart almost
suffocated me, for I ascribed that ghastly grimace
to the fact that the negro had detected my presence
and was already gloating over the pleasing prospect
of my swift and bloody despatch. For many
agonized moments I lurked there, one hand clutching
the stucco wall and the other resting upon the butt
of a new Colt magazine pistol which I had taken the
precaution to purchase in Alexandria a week earlier.
When again I ventured to protrude my head, I
learned how groundless my fears had been ; I realized
that the loathsome contortion of the negro's counte-
nance represented a smile of appreciation. He was
listening to the unseen singer whose voice now stole
Rgain upon the silence of the night! His blubber
lips drooped open cavemously and his fierce little
«yes blinked in stupid rapture.
It appeared to me, now, that the sweet voice pro-
ceeded from some subterranean place : I thought that
I was listening to the song of a ginneyeh, I remem-
bered how the Sheikh Ismail was reputed to be the
son of an Efreet and an Arabian princess, and to
tiave lived in that oasis for generations, since tbp
228 TALEB OF SECRET EGYPT
reign of the Sultan Mohammed Nasir ibn-Kalaiin,
who had expelled him from Cairo as a magician.
He was said to possess the secrets of Geber and of
Avicenna — the great Ibn Sina of Bokhara ; to possess
the Philosophers' Stone and the Elixir VitcB. In this
pavilion with the bronze door I beheld the magician's
treasure-house, guarded, within, by a ginneyeh and,
without, by ghouls or black Ef reels!
You will understand that these childish super-
stitions sometimes overcome me, because I have lived
so long among those who believe them; but to me,
a Greek, possessing the consolation of the true re-
ligion, it was only momentary, this cold fear which
belongs to ignorance and is bred in the blood of the
Moslem but finds no place in the heart of a true
And now the Fates again took a hand in the
game. The pack of curs in the distant palm grove
set up a sudden tempest of sound, so that they
seemed to have become possessed of a million devils.
It was a disturbance infinitely louder and more
prolonged than that with which the dogs had greeted
my appearance, and I had barely time to throw
myself flat in the depths of a black and friendly
shadow ere the two negroes, monstrous in the moon-
light, passed me silently and trotted off in the direc-
tion from whence the uproar proceeded. You will
say, no doubt, that a madness as great as that of the
dogs possessed me; but because what I tell you is
true, you must not be surprised to find it strange.
Allowing the negroes time to reach the gate for
THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 229
which I divined them to be making, I ran across
the moon-bathed garden to the door of the pavilion.
You must understand that my madness was not
entirely without method; for I had a vague plan
in my mind: it was to ascertain the character of
the lock upon the bronze door (for you must know
that I am skilled in the craft of the locksmith), and
then, passing beyond the pavilion, which I was
assured was the treasure-house of Ismail, to make
my escape over the garden wall at some point to
the west and return to my base in the desert ravine
armed with a knowledge of the enemy's dispositions.
But, as I have said, the Fates took a hand. The
sweet-voiced singer ceased her song as I approached
the pavilion; and, at the moment that I set foot
upon the lower step, her voice — by Allah! whose
Name be exalted, it was sweet as honey ! — addressed
to me these words :
**0 my master, at last thou art come I Here is
the key! enter ere they return."
Whilst I stared blankly upward to the open lattice
from whence the invisible speaker thus addressed
me, an antique key wrapped in a piece of perfumed
silk, fell almost upon my head!
Dazed though I was by the complete unexpected-
ness of this happening I doubt if I should have had
the temerity to pursue the matter further that night
230 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
but for the sound of fleetly running footsteps of
which at this moment I became aware.
My escape was cut off! If I endeavored to pass
around the pavilion in accordance with my original
plan I should undoubtedly be perceived. My only
hope lay in accepting the invitation so singularly
given. With trembling hands I fitted the key to
the cumbersome lock, opened the door, and entered
the pavilion. My presence of mind had not com-
pletely deserted me and before closing the door I
withdrew the key.
I found myself in a saloon of extraordinary mag-
nificence, furnished with mattresses covered with
silk and lighted by hanging lamps and by candles,
and having at its upper end a couch of alabaster
decorated vnth. pearls and canopied by curtains of
satin peacock-blue. From a carved wooden archway
draped with cloth of gold there leaped forth a girl
of such surpassing loveliness that her image must
forever reside in my heart together with those of
Conceive all the dark-eyed beauties of Oriental
poetry, of Hafiz, of Omar, of Attar, and from each
distil the very essence of female loveliness; though
you combine them all in one rapturous vision of
delight you will have conceived but a feeble shadow
of shadows of this wondrous reality who now stood
panting before me, her red lips parted and her bosom
I think if the light in her eyes had been for me
I could gladly have died for her and found death
THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 231
sweet; but as her gaze met mine a pitiful change
took place in that lovely countenance. Her color
fled and she swayed and almost fell.
**0h," she whispered, **thou art not my beloved!
O Allah ! this is some snare that Ismail hath set for
my feet I Who art thouf who art thouT'
But because of the excess of the loveliness of the
speaker, from whom I could not remove my eyes,
and because as I stood in that perfumed apartment
it seemed to me that I was no longer a real man, but
a figment of some Ef reefs dream, I found myself
incapable of both speech and action.
Yet I was speedily to know that the Fates, which
had thrust me into that saloon — ^nay, which had
brought me across the desert to that secret oasis —
were not yet wearied of their sport.
A soft call, a lover's signal (for no true Believer
will whistle at night, since to do so is to summon the
evil ginn) sounded from immediately outside the
bronze door, followed by a muffled rapping upon
the door itself!
**Said, my beloved!" cried the girl wildly, and
ran towards the door.
At that very moment, and whilst I stood there
like a man of clay, I heard the negro guardians
returning to their posts ; I heard the clatter of their
sandals and I heard their guttural cries of rage!
Uttering a long tremulous sigh, the beautiful occu-
pant of the pavilion fell swooning upon the floor.
A loud imperious voice now rose above the sounds
of conflict which had commenced outside the paviKon ;
•232 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
I heard the sound of many running feet, and — ^my
blood turned to ice — that of a key being inserted
in the lock of the bronze door ! Power of action re-
turned to me, though I confess that I now grew sick
with dread. Only one hiding-place was possible : the
first I could reach.
I leaped across the lovely form extended upon the
floor and dropped, almost choking with emotion, be-
hind the alabaster couch. I had barely gained this
cover when the door was hurled open and a tall,
excessively gaunt, and hawk-faced old man entered,
his eyes blazing, his thin nostrils quivering, and his
lean hands opening and closing at his sides in a sort
of clutching movement horribly suggestive and
He was followed by the two negroes, who were
dragging between them a young Egyptian of pre-
possessing appearance down whose pale face blood
was pouring from a wound in the brow.
Several other persons, principally servants of the
harem, brought up the rear.
Towering over the recumbent body of the girl,
the terrible old man — in whom I could not fail to
recognize the Sheikh Ismail — glared down at her
for some moments in passionate silence; then he
made as if to spurn her with his foot; then he
clutched his long white beard with both hands and
plucked at it f renziedly, whilst tears began to course
down his furrowed cheeks, which had the frightful
appearance of those of a mummy.
**0 light of mine eyes!*' he exclaimed; **0 shame
THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 233
of my house ! reproach of my white hairs !'
He recovered himself by dint of a stupendous
effort and turning a fiery glance upon the captive :
**Cast him down upon the floor,'' he cried, *Hhat
I may spit upon him, who is a scorn among swine
and the son of a disease!"
To my unspeakable horror, the Sheikh then strode
across the saloon and seated himself upon the
alabaster couch! I almost choked with fear; I felt
my teeth beginning to chatter and the beating of my
heart sounded in my ears like the throb of a
darahukeh. The Sheikh, fortunately ignorant of my
proximity, thus addressed the unfortunate young
man who lay at his feet :
''Know, O disgrace of thy mother, that thy death
hath been decided upon, and it shall visit thee in a
most painful and unfortunate manner. O thou spawn
of offal, learn that I have been aware of thy male-
volent intentions since first thou didst seek to pene-
trate into my secret. What! am I heir to all the
wisdom of the ages, that I should remain ignorant
of the presence of such as thee, thou gnat's Qgg,
in my house? When the partner in thine infamy
didst steal the key of the door from me, thinkest thou
that mine eyes were blind to the theft, thou fore-
doomed carrion? It was in order that thy culpability
should be made manifest that I permitted thee to
enter. Thy double stratagem for quelling and then
exciting the dogs, in order that the guards might be
drawn from their posts, was known to me, and the
negroes had received my orders to run to the gate
234 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
in seeming accordance with thine accursed desires,
Throughout the time that this dreadful old man
thus addressed his victim, the latter crouched upon
the floor, apparently paying no heed to his words^
but keeping an agonized glance fixed upon the lovely
form of the girl. I was now in a condition of such
profound and dejected fear as I had never known
before and trust I may never know again. The
** Learn of the fate of some of those who sought
the secret of Ismail before thee. One there was,
Mustapha Mirza, a Persian, who came hither to de-
spoil me. With his eyes did he behold my treasure.
To-day he hath no eyes! And there was one Hassan
of the Khan Khalil. He dared to lay violent hands
upon the treasure of my house — the 'treasure' not
of gold nor jewels but of fairest flesh and blood.
To-day he hath no hands! Wouldst like to know of
Abdul Moharli, who learned much of this '^ secret"
of mine, and would have spoken of it? His tongue
1 threw to the carrion crows! Thou, sink of
iniquity, hast not only seen with thine eyes, heard
with thine ears and laid thy filthy hands upon the
treasure of Ismail; thou hast approached thy foul
lips to this peach of Allah's garden! thou hast ..."
He choked in his utterance and seemed upon the
point of hurling himself upon the young man before
him: but again he recovered his composure after
a great effort and proceeded:
**The unpleasant punishments visited upon those
THE SECRET OF ISMAIL 235
others shall likewise fall to thy portion, since thou
hast committed like crimes; but this shall only be
in order to prepare thee for a most protracted and
painful death. Bear him forth into the courtyard."
As one who dreams an evil dream, I saw the com-
pany stream out of the saloon, the wretched prisoner
in their midst. When at last the bronze door was
reclosed and I found myself alone with the swooning
girl, I could scarce believe that even this respite was
I offered a prayer to St. Antony of the Thebaid —
my patron saint — as I listened to the sound of their
receding footsteps; when I was aroused from the
lethargy of fear into which I had fallen by a distant
scream — a long wailing cry. . . .
I have often asked myself: How did I make my
escape from that dreadful village? You will re-
member that I had the purloined key of the bronze
door in my possession? Then it was to this in the
first place that I owed my preservation. To regain
the garden was a simple matter, for the Sheikh and
his bloodthirsty following were engaged in the court-
yard of the house, but to St. Antony be all praise for
the circumstance that the little door opposite the
mosque had been left open — possibly by the unhappy
Said, — and to St. Antony be all praise that a second
time I avoided the dogs. . . .
Dawn found me staggering down into that friendly
ravine which sheltered my camel. I was utterly ex-
hausted, for I bore a burden, but triumphant, deliri-
236 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
ons with joy and rapture, because my burden was so
sweet. You may question me of these matters, and I
shall reply: As well as my cotton interests I have
now another interest in the Delta — the lovely
' ' Secret ' ' of the Sheikh Ismail Ebn al As !*
• Readers of Tales of Alii Tal)dh will recognize Mizmiiiia, "The
Lady of the Lattice," the storj of whoso recovery by the bereaved
SheJJdi has already been related!
I WILL tell you this story (said Ferrier of the
Egyptian Civil) with one reservation; com-
ments are to be reserved for some future time.
I can only tell you what I saw with my own eyes
and heard with my own ears ; I offer no explanation ;
I pass on the story ; you can take it or leave it.
Some of you will remember Dunlap — I don't mean
Bobert Dunlap, who is chief officer of the Pekin,
l^ut Jack Dunlap his cousin, the irrigation man who
»sed to be stationed at Assuan.
You remember the build of the beggar? — the im-
pression ef scaffolding his figure conveyed? I al-
ways used to think of him as an iron framework,
and he had the most hard-bitten head-piece I have
ever struck; steel blue eyes and a mouth that was
born shut. The dash of ginger in his hair, com-
plexion, and constitution made up a Scotch brew that
was very strongly flavored.
He came down to Cairo one spring, and a lot of us
got together in the club — on a Sunday night, I
remember, it was. The conversation got along
that silly line; what we were all doing, and why
we were doing it, what we had really intended to
do, and how Fate had butted in and made sailors
238 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
of those that had meant to be parsons, engineers
of the poets, and tramps of the chaps who had pro-
posed to become financiers.
Well, we had traveled up and down this blind
alley for hours, I should think, when Dunlap mounted
on his hind legs and took the rug with the proposi-
tion that nothing — nothing — ^was impossible of
achievement to the man of single purpose. Some-
one put up an extreme case; asking Dunlap how
he should handle the business of the son of a respect-
able greensrrocer who, with singleness of purpose,
proposed to become king of England.
He said it was not a fair case, but he accepted
the challenge; and the way this junior greengrocer,
under Dunlap 's guidance, plunged into politics, got
elected M.P., wormed himself into the confidence of
the entire Empire by a series of brilliant campaigns
conducted from John o' Groats to Van Di emeu's
Land; induced the reigning monarch, publicly, to
advocate his own abdication; established a sort of
commonwealth with his ex-Majesty on the board and
Dunlap occupying a post between that of a protectot
and a Roman Caesar — well, it was wonderful.
Of course, you can judge of the lateness of the
hour from the fact that a group of moderately intel-
ligent men tolerated, and contributed to, a chat of
this nature. But what brings me down to the story
is the few words which I exchanged with Dunlap at
the break-up of the party, when he was leaving.
His cousin Robert, as you know, is well on the
rippity side ; but Jack, with all his fine capamty for
HARtJN PASHA 23SI
heather-dew, had always struck me as something of
a psahnster. I Ve heard that Bacchus holds the keys
of truth, and it may be right; for out on the steps
of the club, I said to Jack Dunlap :
*^It seems you don't practise what you preach?"
** Don't I?" he snapped hardly. **What do you
suppose I am doing here ? ' '
** Engineering, I take it. Do you aspire to a pede-
stal beside De LessepsI"
**De Lesseps be damned!" he retorted sourly.
**Look at these."
He held out his hands, hardened with manual toil
— the hands of a grinder.
** Clearly you are a glutton for work," I said.
**I am aiming at never doing another hand's stroke
in my life," he replied, with an odd glint in his blue
eyes. **My idea of life — life, mind you, not mere
existence — is to be a pasha — one of the old school,
with gate porters, orange trees, fountains, slaves,
mosaic pavements, a marble bath. ' '
He mixed his ambitions oddly.
** Someone to do all the shifting for me, and even
the thinking ; to hold a book in front of me if I wanted
to read, to poke my pipe in my mouth, and to take
it out when I wanted to blow smoke rings — and to
know when I wanted it taken out without being told. ' '
**0n your showing, you are traveling by the
wrong road. ' '
^*Am I!" he snapped viciously. **Just wait
awhile. ' '
That wac all the indication I had of Dunlap 's
240 TALES OF SECRET EGFYPT
ideas, and remembering the time of night and other
circumstances, I did not count upon it worth a brass
farthing ; putting it down to the heather-dew rather
than to any innate viciousness of the man. But
listen to the sequel, which shifts us up just about
twelve months, to the spring of the following year,
I had seen no more of Dunlap, and concluded
that he was back in Assuan, or somewhere on the
river, foozling mth his irrigation again. I never
had the clearest conception of the work of his depart-
ment, by the way. An irrigation man once started
to explain to me about his section, mixing up survey-
ing paraphernalia in his talk, telling me something
about an allowance of half an inch variation in half
a mile of bank, or chat to that effect; but I couldn't
quite make it out. My impression of Dunlap at
business was very hazy; I pictured him measuring
the bank of the Nile with a six-foot rule, and peri-
odically kneeling down in the smelly mud to footle
with a spirit-level. But he was a Senior Wrangler,
as you remember, and a man, too, of more substantial
accomplishments, and he drew five hundred a year
from the Egyptian Government; so that probably I
underestimated his usefuhiess.
At any rate, I had forgotten his iron framework
and mahogany countenance, together with his re-
sponse (under the afflatus of heather-dew) at the
time of which I am now speaking.
HARCtN pasha 241
A little matter had cropped up which touched me
on a weak spot ; and with a mob of jabbering Egyp-
tians and one very placid Bedouin flooding my room,
I found myself thinking again of Dunlap and envy-
ing him his intimate acquaintance with Arabic.
Although I had been in the country quite twice
as long as Dunlap, my Arabic was far from perfect,
for I have always been a rotten linguist. Dunlap,
as I now remembered, might have passed for a native
(excepting his Scottish headpiece), and I ascribed
his proficiency to an inherent trick of mimicry.
There was something of the big ape about him ; and
after one function at which we both were present,
I remember how he convulsed the entire club with
an imitation of a certain highly placed Egyptian
dignitary, voice and gesture being equal in comic
effect to Cyril Maude at his best. In fact, if you
notice, you will find that the best linguists, as a rule,
have a marked apish streak in their composition.
Well, here was I at my wits' ends to grasp twenty
points of view at one and the same time; no two
expressed in quite the same dialect, and each orator
more excited than another. You know the brutes ?
That got me thinking of Dunlap, and even after
the incident was closed, I found myself thinking
of him. Some friends from home were staying at
Shepheard's, and of course they had claimed me as
dragoman; not that I objected in the least, for one
of the party — when it was possible to dodge her
mother — was, well, a very agreeable companion, you
242 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
On this particular morning we were doing the
l)azaars. I have found by comparison that the
average tourist knows far more of the Muski than
the average resident; in the same way, I suppose
that for information regarding the Tower of London
or the British Museum, one must go, not to a Cock-
ney, but to an American visitor. At any rate, my
party told me more than I could tell them, and my
job degenerated into that of a mere interpreter. In
the matter of purchases, I possibly saved them
money, but their knowledge of the wares was miles
ahead of my own. These up-to-date guide books
must be very useful reading, I think.
Although I had tried hard to rush them past that
dangerous quarter, the Goliargiya, the ladies of the
party had discovered a shop where little trays of
loose gems, turquoises, rubies, bits of lapis-lazuli,
and so forth, were displayed snarefully.
After that I knew where I could find them up to
any time before lunch ; I knew they were safe enough
for the rest of the morning ; and accepting my defeat
at the hands of the jewel merchant who turned his
slow eyes upon me and shrugged apologetically, I
drifted off, after a decent interval (leaving young
Forrest, who, mysteriously, had turned up, to do the
cavalierly), intending to visit my acquaintance,
Hassan, in the Suh el-Attdi'in (Street of the Per-
fumers), not twenty yards away.
You know Hassan? A large, mysterious figure
in the shadows of his little shop, smoking amber-
scented cigarettes as though he liked them, and turn-
HARON PASHA 24»
ing his sleepy eyes slowly upon each passer-by. "Well,
I drifted around in his direction.
Right at the corner of the street, a big limousine
was standing; an up-to-date car, fawn cushions, sil-
ver-plated fittings, and simply stuffed with fresh-cut
flowers. A useful-looking Nubian was chauffeur, and
on the step squatted a fat and resplendent being in
all the glory of much gold braid.
These harem guards are rarely seen in Cairo
nowadays — they belong to the other picturesque
Oriental institutions which have begun to fade with
the cresent of Islam. There was something start-
lingiy incongruous about this full-grown specimen,
that bloated representative of Eastern despotism
squatting on the step of an up-to-date French car.
It was a kind of all-round shock ; I cannot describe
how it struck me. It was something like running
into Martin Luther at the Grand National or Nero,
say, at an aviation meeting.
This was a frightfully hot morning, and the
adipose object on the car step was slumbering bliss-
fully. A moment later I spotted the charge which
he was guarding with such sedulous care. She was
seated in Hassan's shop — well back in the shadows — •
a gauzy white vision, all eyes and yashmak. A con-
fidential female servant accompanied her. They
made a pleasing picture enough, and a more suitable
setting could not well be found. It was an illustrated
page of the Arabian Nights, and it appealed strongly
even to my jaded perceptions.
Of course, I was not going to interrupt thh
244 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
tete-a-tete; but from where I stood I could observe
the group very well whilst remaining myself un-
observed. It presently became evident that the lady
of the yashmak, under the pretence of purchasing
perfumes, was merely killing time, and my interest
increased as the hour of noon grew near and the
artistic group remained unbroken. You know the
Mosque of El-Ashraf by Hassan 's shop ? Its minaret
almost overhung the place. Well, in due course,
out popped the mueddin.
^'La il aha ilia Allah, . . /'
There he was a very sweet-voiced singer, as I
noted at the time, telling them there was no God
but God, and all the rest of it; and presently he
worked round to the side of the gallery overlooking
Then I could see which way the wind blew. He
seemed to be deliberately singing at the picturesque
trio — and the dark eyes of the lady of the yashmak
were lifted upward — in reverence, perhaps; but I
hardly thought so.
There was no doubt about the mueddin' s final
glance, as he turned and retired from the gallery.
I remained where I was until the yashmak left the
shop; and as she had to pass quite close to me in
order to rejoin the waiting car, I had a good look
It was just an impression, of course, an impres-
sion of red lips under the white gauze, an oval
Oriental outline, with very fine eyes — ^notably fine,
where fine eyes are common — and a little exquisitely
HAECTN PASHA 245
chiseled nose; a bewitching face. Jnst that one
glimpse I had and a vague impression of rustling
eilk with the tap of high heels. A faint breath of
musk still proclaimed itself above the less pleasing
odors of the street ; then, the female attendant hav-
ing cuffed the slumbering Silenus into wakefulness,
the car moved off and this harem lily vanished
from the bazaar.
I knew that my party was safe for another half
an hour, at any rate, so I nipped along to Hassan *s
shop. Of course, he began brazenly by declaring
that no ladies had been there that morning. I
had expected it, and the attitude confirmed my
Presently, when his boy had made fresh coffee,
and Hassan, from the black cabinet, had produced
eome real cigarettes, we got more intimate. There
Was a scarcity of European visitors that morning;
and excepting one interruption by a party of four
American ladies, I had Hassan to myself for half
He raised his fat finger to his lips when I pressed
my question, and rolled his eyes fearfully.
**She is from the palace of Harun Pasha,'' he
whispered with more sidelong glances. **Ah!
effendim, I fear. . . .
We smoked awhile ; then —
**The Pasha's wife?" I inquired.
**It is the Lady Zohara," he said.
This did not add greatly to my information; but
I continued; **And the mueddinf"
246 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
*'AhI — do not whisper it. . . . That is my brother,
*'He raises his eyes very high!"
*'Not so, effendim; it is she who raises her eyes.
I fear — I fear for Sai'd. The Pasha . . . you have
heard of him?"
^*I may have heard his name," I replied; **but
I am quite unfamiliar with his reputation. ' '
Hassan shook his head gloomily.
**He is the last of his race," he explained; **the
race of the Khalifs. He inhabits the ancient palace
— ^but much has been rebuilt, and much added — in
Old Cairo, close behind the Coptic Church. ..."
**I did not know that such a palace even existed."
Again Hassan raised his finger to his lips.
**He is not like the other pashas," he said; **in
the house of Harun Pasha are observed to-day all
the old customs as in the day of his great ancestor
**But a motor-car!"
**Ah, effendim, he does not scorn to employ
modem comforts, nor do I mean that he is a strict
Moslem. But you saw the one who sat upon the
step? The harem of the Pasha is well guarded;
not only by such as he, but by the Nubians and by
the other mutes."
**He has many slaves. His agent in Mecca pro-
cures for him the pick of the market."
**But there is no such thing as slavery in
HARtrN PASHA 247
*'Do the slaves know that, effendimf" he asked
simply. ** Those who have tongues are never seen
outside the walls — unless they are guarded by those
Xv'ho have no tongue!"
It was a curious sidelight upon a more curious
possibility and I was much impressed.
* * Your brother * '
**Alas! I have warned him! I fear, most sin-
cerely I fear, that one dark night the same will befall
him that befell the son of my cousin, Ali."
''And what was thatr '
*'He climbed the wall of the Pasha's garden.
There is a fig tree growing close beside it at one
place. Someone assisted him to descend on the other.
But he had been betrayed; the Nubian mutes took
him — and they '*
He bent and whispered in my ear.
''Impossible!" I cried — "impossible! hdss! boss I''
"Not so, effendim — ^nor was that all. After that
"Enough, Hassan, enough!" I cried. '^Ushur!'^
Hassan sighed, raising fearful eyes to the minaret.
There has been nothing you are likely to disbe-
lieve so far ; but now — ^well, I specified at the begin-
ning — ^no comments. Let me tell the story in my
own way, and you have permission to think what you
There was a dance at Shepheard's that night, and
248 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
young Forrest rather interfered with my plans again
as to one of the members of the English party; I
think I have referred to her before? That sent me
home in a bad humor — at least not home; for as I
was standing over by the Ezbekiyeh Gardens, .won-
dering whether to go along to ** Jimmy's'' or not, I
formed a sudden determination to go and have a
look at the abode of Harun Pasha instead!
Mind you, I was not surprised to have lived in
Cairo all these years without having heard of the
place; I had learned things about the Muski in the
morning, from my tourist friends, which had re-
vealed to me something of my pitiable ignorance
But I was determined to mend my ways, so to speak,
and I thought I would turn my restless mood to good
purpose, by improving my knowledge of my neigh-
I induced the torpid driver of an ardbiyeh to
drive me out to Old Cairo. He obviously consid-
ered me to be even more demented than the rest of
my countrymen, but since the fare would be a sub-
stantial one, he tackled the job. Mad expedition?
Quite so; but you appreciate the mood?
After we had passed a certain quarter — a quarter
which never sleeps — there was nothing livelier than
decayed tombs en route. In the chill of the evening
I began to weigh up my own foolishness apprecia-
tively, but having got so far as the Coptic Church
— ^you know the church I mean? — I was not going
back unsatisfied; so I told my man to wait, and
started off to look for the famous palace.
HAEON PASHA 249
I must say the scene was impressive; a sky full
of diamonds and a moon just bursting with light.
The liquid night — sounds of the Nile alone disturbed
the silence, and the buildings might have been made
of mother-o '-pearl, so flawless and pure did they
seem, gleaming there under the moon.
Well, I wandered up some narrow streets — past
ruins of former important houses, and all that —
until I found myself in the shadow of a high wall
which obviously was kept in good repair. I followed
this for some distance, and I could see trees on the
other side ; at one place a perfect mat of those purple
flowers hung over the top; gorgeous things; the
name begins with a B, but I can never remember it.
This seemed promising, and as there was not a soul
in sight, nor, on the visible evidences, a habitable
building near me, I began to fossick for a likely
place to climb up.
Presently I found the spot, and at the same time
confirmation of my belief that these were the pre-
cincts of the Pasha. A fig tree grew beside the wall,
affording an admirable means of reaching the top
— a natural ladder. In a jiffy I was up . . . and
overlooking one of the most glorious gardens I had
ever seen or dreamt of !
It must have been planned by an artist simply
soaked in the lore of the Orient. It set me thinking
of Edmond Dulac's illustrations to the Arabian
Nights. Apart from those pages, you never saw
anything like it, I swear. The position of each tree
was a study ; the arrangement of the flowerbeds was
250 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
poetic — thsit is tlie only word for it; there was a
pond with marble seats around and a flight of steps
with big copper urns filled with growing flowers,
mosaic paths, and lesser pools with fountains play-
ing. I peered down into the water, and the naoon
rays glittered magically upon the scales of the golden
carp which darted there. And all this fairy prospect
was no more than an introduction, as it were, a sort
of lead-up, to the Aladdin's Palace beyond.
I saw now that what with pahns and the natural
rise of the land back from the Nile, the wonderful
palace, with its terraces and gleaming domes, must
actually be invisible from all points; a more secret
locality one could not well imagine.
As to this magician's abode, which lay before me,
I shall not attempt to describe it. But turn to the
illustrations which I have menioned, or to those of
Burton's big edition; I will leave it to the artist's
and your imagination to fill up the canvas.
Lights shone out from a hundred windows. Out
of the ghostly, tomb-like silence of Old Cairo, I
had clambered into a sort of fairyland; I stood
there with the spray from a fountain wetting me,
and rubbed my eyes. Honestly, I should not have
been surprised to find myself dreaming. Well, you
may be sure I was not going back yet; there was
not a living soul to be seen in the gardens, and I
meant to have a peep into the palace, whatever the
The likeliest point, as I soon determined, was to
the west — ^where a long, low wing of the building
HAEON PASHA 251
extended, and was lost, if I may use the term, in a
great bank of verdure and purple blooms. I took
full advantage of the ample shadow cast by the trees,
and came right up under the white wall without
To my right, the wall was obviously modem, but
to my left, although in the distance and under the
moon it had seemed uniform, it was built of sand-
stone blocks and was evidently of great age. The
palace proper, you understand, was fully forty yards
east ; the place before me was a sort of low extension
and evidently had no real connection with the resi-
Just above my head was a square window, iron-
barred, but this did not look promising, and cau-
tiously, for I was hampered by the creepers which
grew under the wall, I felt my way further west.
Presently I encountered a pointed door of black,
time-seared wood, and heavily iron-studded. Then,
with alarming suddenness, the quietude of my ad-
venture was broken; things began to move with
A most dreadful screaming and howling split the
stillness and made me jump like a startled frog!
The sound of a lash on bare flesh reached me from
some place behind the pointed door. Screams for
mercy in thick, guttural Arabic, mingled and punc-
tuated with horrifying shrieks of pain, informed my
ignorance unmistakably that mediaeval methods yet
?uled in the civilized Near East.
Screams and supplications merged into a dull
252 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
moaning; but the whistle of the lash continued un-
interruptedly. Then that too ceased, and dimly came
the sounds of a muffled colloquy; a sort of gurgling
talk that got me wondering.
I had just time to creep away and conceal myself
behind a thick clump of bushes, when the door was
thrown open, and the most gigantic negro I have
ever set eyes upon appeared in the opening, out-
lined against the smoky glare from within. He had
one gleaming bare arm about the neck of an in-
sensible man, and he dragged him out into the
garden as one might drag a heavy sack; dropping
him all in a quivering heap upon the very spot
which I had just vacated I
The negro, who was stripped to the waist and
"whose glistening body reminded me of a bronze
statue of Hercules, stood looking down at the insen-
sible victim, with a hideous leer. I ventured to raise
myself ever so slightly; and in the ghastly, isweat-
bedaubed face of the tortured man — whose bare
shoulders were bloody from the lash — I recognized
the Silenus of the limousine!
In response to a guttural inarticulate muttering
by the black giant, a second Nubiau, of scarcely
lesser dimensions, emerged from the dungeon with a
jar of water. He drenched the swooning man, evi-
dently in order to revive him; and, when the
wretched being ultimately fought his way back to
agonized consciousness — to my horror he was seized,
dragged in through the doorway again, and once
more I heard the whistle of the lash being applied to
HARtTN PASHA 2o3
Mb lacerated back, the skin of which was already
I suppose there are times when the most discreet
man is snatched outside himself by circumstances?
The door of this beastly torture-room had not been
reclosed, and before I could realize what I was about,
I found myself inside !
The wretched victim had been hauled up to a beam
by his bound wrists, and the huge Nubian was put-
ting all his strength into the ^vielding of the cat-oV
nine-tails, drawing blood with every stroke; whilst
his assistant hung on to the rope running through d
pulley-block in the low ceiling.
All in a sort of whirl (I was raving mad with
indignation) I got amongst the trio, and landed a
clip on the jaw of the son of Erebus which made hia
teeth rattle like castanets.
Down came the fat sufferer all in a heap in his
own blood. Down went my man, and began to cough
out broken molars. Then it was my turn; and down
I went with the second mute on top of me, and the
pair of us were playing hell all about the blood-
epattered floor — up, down, under, over — straining,
punching, kicking . . . then my antagonist introduced
gouging, and I had to beat the mat.
It had been a stiff bout, and the stinking shambles
were whirling about me like a bloody maelstrom.
When things settled down a bit, I found myself lying
in a small cell skewered up like a pullet, and with a
prospect of iron grating and stone-flagged passage
before me. I was more than a trifle damaged, and
254 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
my head was singing like a kettle. If I had thonght
that I dreamed before, it was a struggle now to con-
vince myself that this was not a nightmare.
Amid the rattling of chains and dropping of bars.
a fantastic procession was filing down the passage.
First came a hideous, crook-backed apparition,*hook-
nosed, and bearing a lantern. Behind him appeared
two guards with glittering scimitars. Behind the
guards walked a fourth personage, black-robed and
vhite-turbaned — a sort of dignified dragoman, car-
rying an enormous bunch of keys.
The iron grating of my dungeon was unlocked and
raised, and I was requested, in Arabic, to rise and
follow. Realizing that this was no time for funny
business, I staggered to my feet, and between the two
Scimitars marched unsteadily through a maze of
passages with doors unlocked and locked behind uSj
stairs ascended and stairs descended.
From empty passages, our journey led us to pass-
ages richly carpeted and softly lighted. By a heavy
door opening on to the first of the latter, we left the
squinting man; and, with the two Scimitars and
Black Robe, I found myself crossing a lofty pavilion.
The floor was of rich mosaic, and priceless carpets
Were spread about in artistic confusion. Above my
head loomed a great dome, lighted by stained glass
windows in which the blue of lapis-lazuli predomi-
nated. By golden chains from above swung golden
lamps burning perfumed oil and flooding the pavilion
with a mellow blue light. There were inlaid tables
and cabinets; great blue vases of exquisite Chinese
HARtrN PASHA 255
porcelain stood in niches of the wall. The walls
were of that faintly amber-tinted alabaster whiek
is quarried in the Mokattam Hills; and there wera
fragile columns of some delicately azure-veinti
marble, rising, graceful and slender, ethereal ai
pencils of smoke, to a balcony high above my head;
then, from this, a second series of fairy columns
crept in blue streaks up into the luminous shadows
of the dome.
We crossed this place, my heel taps echoing hol-
lowly and before a curtained door took pause. An
impressive interval of perfumed silence; then in
response to the muffled clapping of hands, the curtain
was raised and I was thrust into a smaller apartment
I found myself standing before a long diwan,
amid an opulence of Oriental appointment which sur-
passed anything which I could have imagined. The
atmosphere was heavy with the odor of burning
perfumes, and, whereas the lofty pavilion afforded
a delicate study in blue, this chamber was voluptu-
ously amber — amber-shaded lamps, amber cushiomi,
amber carpets ; everywhere the glitter of amber audi
Amid the amber sea, half immersed in the golden
silks of the dais, reclined a large and portly Sheikh ;
full and patriarchal his beard, wherein played amber
tints, lofty and serene his brow, sweeping up to the
snowy turban. From a mouthpiece of amber and
gold he inhaled the scented smoke of a narghll. Be-
hind him, upon a cushioned stool, knelt a femal*
»6 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
whose beauty of face and form was unmistakable,
aince it was undisguised by the filmy artistry of
her attire. With a gigantic fan of peacock's feathers,
she cooled the Sheikh, and dispersed the flies which
threatened to disturb his serenity. A second houri
received in her hands the amber mouthpiece as it fell
from her lord's lips ; a third, who evidently had been
playing upon a lute, rose and glided from the apart-
ment like an opium vision, as I entered between the
I found myself thinking of Saint Saen's music
to Samson and Delilah; the barbaric strains of the
exquisite hacchanale were beating on my brain.
Black Robe advanced and knelt upon the floor of
**We have brought the wretched malefactor into
your glorious presence,'* he said.
The Pasha (for I knew, beyond doubt, that I stood
before Harun Pasha) raised his eyes and fixed a
stem gaze upon me. He gazed long and fixedly, and
an odd change took place in his expression. He
seemed about to address me, then, apparently chang-
ing his mind, he addressed the recumbent figure at
*'Have the slaves returned with the female mis-
creant and her partner in Satan?" he demanded
* * Lord of the age, ' ' replied the other, rising upon
bla knees, '*they are expected."
**Let them be brought before me," directed the
Pasha, **upon the instant of their arrival. Ha«
HAEtrN PASHA 257
Misrun confessed his complicity?"
**He fainted beneath the lash, excellency, but con-
fessed that he slept — that pig who prayed without
washing and whose birth was a calamity — on several
occasions when accompanying the lady Zohara,''
"Leave us I" cried the Pasha. *'But, first, unbind
He swept his arm around comprehensively, and
everyone withdrew from the apartment, including
the Scimitars (one of whom cut my lashings) and
the lady of the fan. I found myself alone with
"Sit here beside me !" directed the Pasha.
Being yet too dazed for wonder or protest, I
obeyed mechanically. My exact situation was not
dear to me at the moment and I was a long way off
knowing how to act.
"I am much disturbed in mind, and my bosom is
contracted," continued the Pasha, with a certain
benignity, "by reason of a conspiracy in my harem,
which came to a head this night, and which led to
the loss of the pearl of my household, a damsel wim
cost me her weight in gold, who entangled me in tka
snare of her love and pierced me with anguish.
Ejiow, young Inglisi, that love is difficult Alaa I
she who had captivated my reason by her loveliness
fled with a shame of the Moslems who defamed the
sacred office of mueddin! In truth he is naught but
ite fton of a disease and a consort of camels, Mf
258 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
soul cries out to Allah and my mind is a nest of
wasps. Relate to me your case, that it may turn me
from the contemplation of my sorrows. At another
time, it had gone hard with you, and penalties of a
most unfortunate description had been visited upon
your head, disturber of my peace; but since this
child of filth and progeny of mules has shattered it
forever, your lesser crime comes but as a diversion.
B-elate to me the matters which have brought you
to this miserable pass."
There was some still little voice in my mind which
was trying to speak to me, if you understand what
I mean. But what with the suffocating perfume of
ambergris (or it may have been frankincense), my
incredible surroundings, and the buzzing of my mal-
treated skull, I simply could not think connectedly.
A memory was struggling for identification in my
addled brain; but whether it was due to something
I had seen, heard, or smelled, I could not for the
life of me make out. I heard myself spinning my
own improbable yarn as one listens to a dreary and
boresome recitation; I didn't seem to be the ra-
conteur ; my mind was busy about that amber room,
furiously chasing that hare-like memory, which
leaped and doubled, dived under the silken cushions,
popped up behind the Pasha, and fiicked its ears at
me from amid the feathers of the peacock fan.
I driveled right on to the end of my story,
mechanically, without having got my mind in proper
working order; and when the Pasha spoke again —
there was that wretched memory still dodging me>
HARtrN PASHA 259
sometimes almost within my grasp, but always just
*^Your amusing narrative has diverted me/' said
the Pasha ; and he clapped his hands three times.
It never occurred to me, you will note, to assert
myself in any way ; I accepted the lordly condescen-
sions of this singular personage without protest.
You will be wondering why I didn't kick up a devil
of a hullabaloo — declare that I had come in response
to screams for assistance — ^wave the dreaded name
of the British Agent under the Pasha's nose, and all
that. I can only say that I didn't; I was subdued;
in fact I was down, utterly down and out.
Black Robe entered with eyes averted.
**Well, wretched vermin!" roared the Pasha in
sudden wrath; *'do you tell me they are not here?"
The man, with his head bumping on the carpet,
*'Most noble," he replied hoarsely, ^*your lowly-
slave has exerted himself to the utmost "
**Out! son of a calamity!" shouted the Pasha-—
and before my astonished eyes he raised the heary
narghli and hurled it at the bowed head of the man
It struck the white turban with a resounding crack,
and then was shattered to bits upon the floor. It
was a blow to have star>'gered a mule. But Black
Robe, without apparent loss of dignity, rose and de-
The Pasha sat rocking about, and plucking madly
at his beard.
260 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
**0 Allah!" he cried, *'how I suffer" He turned
to me. ** Never since the day that another of your
race (but, this one, a true son of Satan) came to my
palace, have I tasted so much suffering. You shall
judge of my clemency, imprudent stranger, and
pacify your heart with the spectacle of another's
He clapped his hands twice. This time there was
a short delay, which the Pasha suffered impatiently;
then there entered the squint-eyed man, together
with the two Scimitars.
**I would visit the dungeon of the false Pasha,"
said my singular host; and, rising to his feet, he
placed his hand upon my shoulder and indicated
that we were to proceed from the apartment.
Led by Crook Back, in whose hand the gigantic
bunch of keys rattled unmelodiously, and followed
by the Scimitars, we proceeded upon our way; and
it was beyond the powers of my disordered brain
to dismiss the idea that I was taking part in a Christ-
mas pantomime. Many steps were descended ; many
heavy doors unbolted and unbarred, bolted and
barred behind us; many stone-paved passages, re-
minding me of operatic scenery, were traversed ere
we came to one tunnel more gloomy than the rest.
Upon the right was a blank stone wall, upon the
left, a series of doors, black with age and heavily
iron-studded. The only illumination was that fur-
nished by the lantern which Crook Back carried.
Before one of the doors the Pasha paused.
**In which is Misrun?" he demanded.
HAECN PASHA 261
**In the next, excellency/' replied the jailer — for
such I took to be the office of the hunchback.
As he spoke, he held the lantern to the grating.
I found myself peering into a filthy dungeon, the
reek of which made me ill ; and there, upon the stone
floor, lay poor SilenusI He raised his eyes to the
**Lord of the age,'' he moaned, lifting his manacled
Wrists, ** glory of the universe, sun of suns! I have
confessed my frightful sin, and most dire misfor-
tunes. Of your sublime mercy, take pity upon the
meanest thing that creeps upon the earth '*
* ' Proceed ! ' ' said the Pasha.
And with the moaning cries of Misrun growing
fainter behind us, we moved along the passage. Be-
fore a second door, we halted again, and the jailer
raised the lantern.
**Look upon this!" cried the Pasha to me — ^*'look
well, and look long!"
Shudderingly I peered in between the bars. It
had come home to me how I was utterly at the mercy
of this man's moods. If he had chosen to have me
hurled into one of his dungeons, what prospect of
release would have been mine! Who would ever
know of my plight ? No one ! And beyond doubt I
was in the realm of an absolute monarch. I silently
thanked my lucky stars that my lot was not the lot
of him who occupied this second dungeon.
As the dim light, casting shadow bars across the
filthy floor, picked out the features of the prisoner,
I gave a great start. Save that the beard was more
262 TALES OF SECKET EGYPT
gray, longer, filthy and unkempt, and that, in place
of the nearly shaven sknll, this unhappy being dis-
played dishevelled locks, the captive might easily
have passed for the Pasha.
I met the eye of this terrible despot.
''Look upon the false Pasha,'' he said; *'look upon
the one who thought to dispossess me ! For years,
by his own miserable confession, he studied me in
secret. When I journeyed to my estates in Assuan''
(I started again) '*he was watching — ^watching —
always watching. His scheme, which was whispered
into his ear by the Evil One, was no plant of sudden
growth, but a tree, that, from a seed of Satan planted
in fertile soil, had flourished exceedingly, tended by
the hand of villainous ambition. ' '
I clutched at the bars for support. The stench
of the place was simply indescribable; but it was
neither the stench nor the bizarre incidents of the
night which accounted for my dizziness : it was the
sudden tangibility of that hitherto elusive memory.
In build, in complexion, in certain mannerisms
underlying the dignified assumption, Harun Pasha
might well have been the twin brother of Jack
A frightful possibility burst upon me like a bomb;
clutching the bars with quivering hands, I stared
and stared at the wretched impostor in the cell.
Could it be ? Had he been mad enough to make some
attempt upon the Pasha? And was this his end?
I looked around again. I searched the bearded
features of the Pasha with eager gaze. Good God!
HARCN PASHA 263
either I was going mad, or incredible things had
been done, were being done, in Cairo.
I had not seen Dunlap for a year, remember, and
in the ordinary way I did not see him more than half
a dozen times in twelve months, so that, all things
considered, it was not so remarkable that I had over-
looked the resemblance. A full beard and mustache,
artificially darkened eyelashes, a shaven head and a
white turban, are effectual disguises ; but if you can
imagine Dunlap — the Dunlap you remember — so
arrayed, then you have Harun Pasha. Imagine
Harun Pasha, dirty, bedraggled, a hopeless cap-
tive . . . and you have the prisoner who crouched
upon the straw in that noisome dungeon !
For the second time that night I was lifted out of
myself. I turned on the man beside me in a blazing
**You villain!^' I shouted at him, and clenched
my fists — **do you dare to confine a Britisher in
your stinking cellars. By God! sir . . .'*
Harun Pasha clapped his hand over my mouth;
the two guards had me by the arms from behind.
But my cries had aroused the man in the dungeon,
and, as I was dragged down the passage, these moan-
ing words reached me, spoken in Arabic:
**Help! help! Englishman! A crime has been
committed! I appeal to Lord .'*
A door was slammed fast with a resounding bang,
and the rest of the captive's appeal was lost to me.
One of my guards had substituted his hand for that
of the Pasha, but now it was removed ; and, speech-
^64 TALES OF SECEET EGYPT
less with rage, I found myself being thmst up stone
stairs — and I realized that by a moment's indis-
cretion, I had ruined everything.
Back in the amber apartment once more, with the
two Scimitars at the door and Harun Pasha reclin-
ing upon the cushions, I found speech.
**What are you going to do with me!'* I de-
**My son," replied the Pasha with benignity, **I
pardon all I Your great courage and address, to-
gether with the modesty of your deportment, and
the spirit of adventure which has brought you to
your present unfortunate case, plead for you in a
manner which my clemency cannot resist. It is my
unhappy lot often to be called upon to punish. To-
night, those gloomy dungeons which you have seen
will echo, alas, with the howls of miserable wretches
who are responsible for the loss of the pearl of my
soul; for I am persuaded that she has fled with the
son of offal who profaned the words of Allah from
the minaret This being so, I would temper my
proper severity with a merciful deed. You shall
never speak of what you have seen within these walls,
save in terms suitably disguised. You shall never
seek to return, nor, by speech with any man, to con-
firm whatsoever you may suspect Upon this war-
ranty, you shall depart in peace.''
He clapped his hands twice, and a houri of most
bewitching aspect glided into the diwan.
** Bring sherbet!" ordered the Pasha.
The maiden departed ; and whilst I was yet trying
HAEtrN PASHA 265
to oome to a decision (the Pasha had mentioned no
alternative, but my imagination was equal to the task
of supplying one!) she returned with a tray upom
which were porcelain cups and two vessels of beauti-
fully chased gold.
Harun Pasha decocted a sparkling beverage, and^
with his own hands, passed the brimming cup to me.
I knew you would not believe it ; but I warned you,
and I made a stipulation. Your idea is that I must
be a poor sort of animal to accept so dishonorable a
compromise t I agree. But the situation was even
more peculiarly difficult than is apparent to you at
the moment. Without seeking the information, I
learned from Hassan of the Scent Bazaar that his
brother had indeed fled with the beauteous Lady
Zohara, no one knew whither; and this confirma-
tion of the Pasha's sorrows touched a very tender
spot in my heart I
Then there is another little point.
When the Pasha removed the elaborate stopper
from the first of the golden vessels to which I have
just referred, my eye alone perceived that a bottle,
bearing a familiar black and white label, was con-
tained in this golden casing. The flavor of the
decoction with which we sealed our infamous bargain
clinched the matter.
I was absolutely thrust out of the presence cham-
ber before I had time for another word ; but, looking
back from the door and meeting the eye of the Pasha,
266 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
I encountered a most portentous wink. Therefore
I have stuck to my bargain.
Oh! I have not given much away. The Pasha
is not called Harun, and the palace is nowhere near
the Coptic Church in Old Cairo. Because, you see,
I only knew one man who winked in quite that
elaborate fashion — and his name was Jack Dunlapl
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS
CONDOR wrote to me three times before
the end (said Neville, Assistant-Inspector
of Antiquities, staring vaguely from his open
window at a squad drilling before the Kasr-en-Nil
Barracks). He dated his letters from the camp at
Deir-el-Bahari. Judging from these, success ap-
peared to be almost within his grasp. He shared my
theories, of course, respecting Queen Hatasu, and
was devoting the whole of his energies to the task
of clearing up the great mystery of Ancient Egypt
which centres around that queen.
For him, as for me, there was a strange fascination
about those defaced walls and roughly obliterated
inscriptions. That the queen under whom Egyptian
art came to the apogee of perfection should thus
have been treated by her successors; that no per-
fect figure of the wise, famous, and beautiful Hatasu
should have been spared to posterity ; that her very
cartouche should have been ruthlessly removed from
every inscription upon which it appeared, presented
to Condor's mind a problem only second in interest
to the immortal riddle of Gizeh.
You know my own views upon the matter? My
monograph, ** Hatasu, the Sorceress,'' embodies my
368 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
opinioiL In short, upon certain evidences, some
adduced by Theodore Da\ds, some by poor Condor,
and some resulting from my own inquiries, I have
come to the conclusion that the source — real or im-
aginary — of this queen ^s power was an intimate
acquaintance with what nowadays we term, vaguely,
magic. Pursuing her studies beyond the limit which
is lawful, she met with a certain end, not uncommon,
if the old writings are to be believed, in the case of
those who penetrate too far into the realms of the
For this reason — the practice of black magic — her
statues were dishonored, and her name erased from
the monuments. Now, I do not propose to enter into
any discussion respecting the reality of such prac
tices; in my monograph I have merely endeavored
to show that, according to contemporary belief, the
queen was a sorceress. Condor was seeking to prove
the same thing; and when I took up the inquiry, it
was in the hope of completing his interrupted work.
He wrote to me early in the winter of 1908, from
his camp by the Rock Temple. Davis's tomb, at
Biban el-Muluk, with its long, narrow passage,
apparently had little interest for him; he was
at work on the high ground behind the temple,
at a point one hundred yards or so due west of the
upper platform. He had an idea that he should
find there the mummies of Hatasu — and another;
the latter, a certain Sen-Mut, who appears in the
inscriptions of the reign as an architect high in the
queen's favor. The archaeological points of the letter
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 269
<Jo not concern us in the least, but there was one odd
little paragraph which I had cause to remember
**A girl belonging to some Arab tribe/* wrote
Condor, **came racing to the camp two nights ago
to claim my protection. What crime she had com-
mitted, and what punishment she feared, were far
from clear; but she clung to me, trembling like a
leaf, and positively refused to depart. It was a
difficult situation, for a camp of fifty native ex-
cavators, and one highly respectable European en-
thusiast, affords no suitable quarters for an Arab
girl — and a very personable Arab girl. At any rate,
she is still here ; I have had a sort of lean-to rigged
up in a little valley east of my own tent, but it is
Nearly a month passed before I heard from Con-
dor again ; then came a second letter, with the news
that on the eve of a great discovery — as he believed
— ^his entire native staff — the whole fifty — ^had de-
serted one night in a body! **Two days' work," he
wrote, ** would have seen the tomb opened — for I
am more than ever certain that my plans are accu-
rate. Then I woke up one morning to find every man
Jack of my fellows missing! I went down into the
village where a lot of them live, in a towering rage,
but not one of the brutes was to be found, and their
relations professed entire ignorance respecting their
whereabouts. What caused me almost as much
anxiety as the check in my work was the fact that
Mahara — the Arab girl — had vanished also. I am
270 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
wondering if the thing has any sinister significance."
Condor finished with the statement that he was
making tremendous efforts to secure a new gang.
**But/' said he, ^^I shall finish the excavation, if
I have to do it with my own hands. ' '
His third and last letter contained even stranger
matters than the two preceding it. He had suc-
ceeded in borrowing a few men from the British
Archaeological camp in the Fayum. Then, just as
the work was restarting, the Arab girl, Mahara,
turned up again, and entreated him to bring her
do^vn the Nile, ^^at least as far as Dendera. For
the vengeance of her tribesmen,^* stated Condor,
'* otherwise would result not only in her own death,
but in mine ! At the moment of writing I am in two
minds what to do. If Mahara is to go upon this
journey, I do not feel justified in sending her alone,
and there is no one here who could perform the
I began to wonder, of course; and I had it in
mind to take the train to Luxor merely in order to
see this Arab maiden, who seemed to occupy so
prominent a place in Condor 's mind. However, Fate
would have it otherwise ; and the next thing I heard
was that Condor had been brought into Cairo, and
was at the English hospital.
He had been bitten by a cat — presumably from the
neighboring village; and although the doctor at
Luxor dealt with the bite at once, traveled down with
him, and placed him in the hand of the Pasteur man
at the hospital, he died, as you remember* in the night
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 271
of his arrival, raving mad; the Pasteur treatment
I never saw him before the end, but they told me
that his howls were horribly like those of a cat.
His eyes changed in some way, too, I understand;
and, with his fingers all contracted, he tried to
scratch everyone and everything within reach.
They had to strap the poor beggar down, and
even then he tore the sheets into ribbons.
Well, as soon as possible, I made the necessary
arrangements to finish Condor's inquiry. I had
access to his papers, plans, etc., and in the spring
of the same year I took up my quarters near Deir-
el-Bahari, roped off the approaches to the camp,
stuck up the usual notices, and prepared to finish
the excavation, which, I gathered, was in a fairly
My first surprise came very soon after my arrival,
for when, with the plan before me, I started out to
find the shaft, I found it, certainly, but only with
It had been filled in again with sand and loose
rock right to the very top !
All my inquiries availed me nothing. With what
object the excavation had been thus closed I was
unable to conjecture. That Condor had not reclosed
it I was quite certain, for at the time of his mishap
he had actually been at work at the bottom of the
shaft, as inquiries from a native of Suefee, in the
272 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
Fayum, who was his only companion at the time,
In his eagerness to complete the inquiry, Condor,
by lantern light, had been engaged upon a solitary
night-shift below, and the rabid cat had apparently
fallen into the pit; probably in a frenzy of fear, il
had attacked Condor, after which it had escaped.
Only this one man was with him, and he, for some
reason that I could not make out, had apparently
been sleeping in the temple — quite a considerable dis-
tance from Condor *8 camp. The poor fellow's cries
had aroused him, and he had met Condor running
down the path and away from the shaft.
This, however, was good evidence of the existence
of the shaft at the time, and as I stood contemplat-
ing the tightly packed rubble which alone marked
its site, I grew more and more mystified, for this
task of reclosing the cutting represented much hard
Beyond perfecting my plans in one or two particu-
lars, I did little on the day of my arrival. I had
only a handful of men with me, all of whom I knew,
having worked with them before, and beyond clear-
ing Condor's shaft I did not intend to excavate
Hatasu's Temple presents a lively enough scene
in the daytime during the winter and early spring
months, with the streams of tourists constantly pass-
ing from the white causeway to Cook's Rest House
on the edge of the desert. There had been a goodly
number of visitors that day to the temple below, and
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 273
one or two of the more curious and venturesome had
scrambled up the steep path to the little plateau
which was the scene of my operations. None had
penetrated beyond the notice boards, however, and
now, with the evening sky passing through those in-
numerable shades which defy palette and brush,
which can only be distinguished by the trained eye,
but which, from palest blue melt into exquisite pink,
and by some magical combination form that deep
violet which does not exist to perfection elsewhere
than in the skies of Egypt, I found myself in the
silence and the solitude of **the Holy Valley.''
I stood at the edge of the plateau, looking out at
the rosy belt which marked the course of the distant
Nile, with the Arabian hills vaguely sketched beyond
The rocks stood up against that prospect as great
black smudges, and what I could see of the causeway
looked like a gray smear upon a drab canvas. Be-
neath me were the chambers of the Rock Temple,
with those wall paintings depicting events in the
reign of Hatasu which rank among the wonders of
Not a sound disturbed my reverie, save a faint
clatter of cooking utensils from the camp behind
me — a desecration of that sacred solitude. Then a
dog began to howl in the neighboring village. The
dog ceased, and faintly to my ears came the note
of a reed pipe. The breeze died away, and with it
I turned back to the o^mp, and, having partaken
pf a frugal supper, turned in upon my campaigner's
274 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
bed, thoroughly enjoying my freedom from the rou-
tine of official life in Cairo, and looking forward to
the morrow *s work pleasurably.
Under such circumstances a man sleeps well; and
when, in an uncanny gray half-light, which probably
heralded the dawn, I awoke with a start, I knew that
something of an unusual nature alone could have
disturbed my slumbers.
Firstly, then, I identified this with a concerted
howling of the village dogs. They seemed to have
conspired to make night hideous ; I have never heard
such an eerie din in my life. Then it gradually
began to die away, and I realized, secondly, that the
howling of the dogs and my own awakening might
be due to some common cause. This idea grew upon
me, and as the howling subsided, a sort of disquiet
possessed me, and, despite my efforts to shake it off,
grew more urgent with the passing of every mo-
In short, I fancied that the thing which had
alarmed or enraged the dogs was passing from the
village through the Holy Valley, upward to the
Temple, upward to the plateau, and was approach-
I have never experienced an identical sensation
since, but I seemed to be audient of a sort of psychic
patrol, which, from a remote pianissimo, swelled
fortissimo, to an intimate but silent clamor, which
beat in some way upon my brain, but not through
the faculty of hearing, for now the night was deathly
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCEREvSS 275
Yet I was persuaded of some approach — of the
coming of something sinister, and the suspense of
waiting had become ahnost insupportable, so that
I began to accuse my Spartan supper of having given
me nightmare, when the tent-flap was suddenly
raised, and, outlined against the paling blue of the
sky, with a sort of reflected elfin light playing upon
her face, I saw an Arab girl looking in at me I
By dint of exerting all my self-control I managed
to restrain the cry and upward stai-t which this
apparition prompted. Quite still, with my fists
tightly clenched, I lay and looked into the eyes which
were looking into mine.
The style of literary work which it has been my
lot to cultivate fails me in describing that beautiful
and evil face. The features were severly classical
and small, something of the Bisharin type, with a
cruel little mouth and a rounded chin, firm to hard-
ness. In the eyes alone lay the languor of the Orient ;
they were exceedingly — indeed, excessively — long
and narrow. The ordinary ragged, picturesque
finery of a desert girl bedecked this midnight visi-
tant, who, motionless, stood there watching me.
I once read a work by Pierre de PAncre, dealing
with the Black Sabbaths of the Middle Ages, and
now the evil beauty of this Arab face threw my
memory back to those singular pages, for, perhaps
owing to the reflected light which I have mentioned^
although the explanation scarcely seemed adequate,
those long, narrow eyes shone catlike in the gloom.
Suddenly I made up my mind. Throwing the
276 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
blanket from me, I leapt to the ground, and in a
flash had gripped the girl by the wrists. Confuting
some lingering doubts, she proved to be substantial
enough. My electric torch lay upon a box at the
foot of the bed, and, stooping, I caught it up and
turned its searching rays upon the face of my cap-
She fell back from me, panting like a wild creature
trapped, then dropped upon her knees and began to
plead — began to plead in a voice and with a manner
which touched some chord of consciousness that I
could swear had never spoken before, and has never
She spoke in Arabic, of course, but the words fell
from her lips as liquid music in which lay all the
beauty and all the deviltry of the ^' Siren ^s Song.*'
Fully opening her astonishing eyes, she looked up
at me, and, with her free hand pressed to her bosom,
told me how she had fled from an unwelcome mar-
riage ; how, an outcast and a pariah, she had hidden
in the desert places for three days and three nights,
sustaining life only by means of a few dates which
she had brought with her, and quenching her thirst
with stolen water-melons.
* ^ I can bear it no longer, ejfendim. Another night
out in the desert, with the cruel moon beating, beat-
ing, beating upon my brain, with creeping things
coming out from the rocks, wriggling, wriggling,
their many feet making whisperings in the sand —
ah, it will kill me I And I am for ever outcast from
my tribe, from my people. No tent of all the Arabs,
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 277
though I fly to the gates of Damascus, is open to me,
save I enter in shame, as a slave, as a plaything, as
a toy. My heart" — furiously she beat upon her
breast — *'is empty and desolate, effendim. I am
meaner than the lowliest thing that creeps upon the
sand; yet the God that made that creeping thing
made me also — and you, you, who are merciful and
strong, would not crush any creature because it was
weak and helpless. ^ *
I had released her wrist now, and was looking
down at her in a sort of stupor. The evil which at
first I had seemed to perceive in her was effaced,
wiped out as an artist wipes out an error in his draw-
ing. Her dark beauty was speaking to me in a
language of its own; a strange language, yet one
so intelligible that I struggled in vain to disregard it.
And her voice, her gestures, and the witch-fire of
her eyes were whipping up my blood to a fever heat
of passionate sorrow — of despair. Yes, incredible
as it sounds, despair !
In short, as I see it now, this siren of the wilder-
ness was playing upon me as an accomplished musi-
cian might play upon a harp, striking this string
and that at will, and sounding each with such full
notes as they had rarely, if ever, emitted before.
Most damnable anomaly of all, I — Edward Neville,
archaeologist, most prosy and matter-of-fact man in
Cairo, perhaps — knew that this nomad who had burst
into my tent, upon whom I had set eyes for the first
time scarce three minutes before, held me enthralled ;
and yet, with her wondrous eyes upon me, I could
278 TAI.es of secret EGYPT
summon up no resentment, and could offer but poor
* ^ In the Little Oasis, effendim, I have a sister who
will admit me into her household, if only as a ser^
vant. There I can be safe, there I can rest. Inglisi,
at home in England you have a sister of your own!
Would you see her pursued, a hunted thing from rock
to rock, crouching for shelter in the lair of some
jackal, stealing that she might live — and flying al-
ways, never resting, her heart leaping for fear, fly-
ing, flying, with nothing but dishonor before her!^*
She shuddered and clasped my left hand in both
'ler own convulsively, pulling it down to her bosom.
** There can be only one thing, effendhn/' she
whispered. *^Do you not see the white bones bleach-
mg in the sun?^'
Thro^ang all my resolution into the act, I released
my hand from her clasp, and, turning aside, sat down
upon the box which served me as chair and table, too.
A thought had come to my assistance, had
strengthened me in the moment of my greatest weak-
ness ; it was the thought of that Arab girl mentioned
in Condor's letters. And a scheme of things, an
incredible scheme, that embraced and explained
some, if not all, of the horrible circumstances atten-
dant upon his death, began to form in my brain.
Bizarre it was, stretching out beyond the realm
of things natural and proper, yet I clung to it, for
there, in the solitude, with this wildly beautiful crea-
ture kneeling at my feet, and with her uncanny
powers of fascination yet enveloping me like a cloak.
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 279
I found it not so improbable as inevitably it must
have seemed at another time.
I turned my head, and through the gloom sought
to look into the long eyes. As I did so they closed
and appeared as two darkly luminous slits in the
perfect oval of the face.
**You are an impostor!'' I said in Arabic, speak-
ing firmly and deliberately. *'To Mr. Condor'' — I
could have sworn that she started slightly at sound
of the name — **you called yourself Mahara. I know
you, and I will have nothing to do with you. ' '
But in saying it I had to turn my head aside, for
the strangest, maddest impulses were bubbling up
in my brain in response to the glances of those half-
I reached for my coat, which lay upon the foot
of the bed, and, taking out some loose money, I
placed fifty piastres in the nerveless brown hand.
**That will enable you to reach the Little Oasis,
if such is your desire, ' ' I said. * * It is all I can do for
you, and now — you must go."
The light of the dawn was growing stronger
momentarily, so that I could see my visitor quite
clearly. She rose to her feet, and stood before me,
a straight, slim figure, sweeping me from head to
foot with such a glance of passionate contempt as
I had never known or suffered.
She threw back her head magnificently, dashed
the money on the ground at my feet, and, turning,
leaped out of the tent.
For a moment I hesitated, doubting, questioning
280 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
my hnmanity, testing my fears; then I took a step
forward, and peered out across the plateau. Not
a soul was in sight. The rocks stood up gray and
eerie, and beneath lay the carpet of the desert
stretching unbroken to the shadows of the Nile
We commenced the work of clearing the shaft at
an early hour that morning. The strangest ideas
were now playing in my mind, and in some way I
felt myself to be in opposition to definite enmity.
My excavators labored with a will, and, once we
had penetrated below the first three feet or so of
tightly packed stone, it became a mere matter of
shoveling, for apparently the lower part of the shaft
had been filled up principally with sand.
I calculated that four days' work at the outside
would see the shaft clear to the base of Condor's
excavation. There remained, according to his own
notes, only another six feet or so; but it was solid
limestone — the roof of the passage, if his plans were
correct, communicating with the tomb of Hatasu.
"With the approach of night, tired as I was, I felt
little incliniation for sleep. I lay down on my bed
with a small Browning pistol under the pillovf, but
after an hour or so of nervous listening drifted off
into slumber. As on the night before, I awoke
shortly before the coming of dawn.
Again the village dogs were raising a hideous out-
ory, and again I was keenly conscious of some ever-
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 281
nearing menace. This consciousness grew stronger
as the howling of the dogs grew fainter, and the
sense of approach assailed me as on the previous
I sat up immediately with the pistol in my hand,
and, gently raising the tent flap, looked out over the
darksome plateau. For a long time I could perceive
nothing; then, vaguely outlined against the sky, I
detected something that moved above the rocky edge.
It was so indefinite in form that for a time I was
unable to identify it, but as it slowly rose higher
and higher, two luminous eyes — obviously feline
eyes, since they glittered greenly in the darkness —
came into view. In character and in shape they
were the eyes of a cat, but in point of size they were
larger than the eyes of any cat I had ever seen.
Nor were they jackal eyes. It occurred to me that
some predatory beast from the Sudan might con-
ceivably have strayed thus far north.
The presence of such a creature would account
for the nightly disturbance amongst the village dogs ;
and, dismissing the superstitious notions which had
led me to associate the mysterious Arab girl with
the phenomenon of the howling dogs, I seized upon
this new idea with a sort of gladness.
Stepping boldly out of the tent, I strode in the
direction of the gleaming eyes. Although my only
weapon was the Browning pistol, it was a weapon
of considerable power, and, moreover, I counted upon
the well-known cowardice of nocturnal animals. I
was not disappointed in the result.
282 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
The eyes dropped out of sight, and as I leaped to
the edge of rock overhanging the temple a lithe shape
went streaking off in the greyness beneath me. Its
coloring appeared to be black, but this appearance
may have been due to the bad light. Certainly it
was no cat, was no jackal; and once, twice, thrice
my Browning spat into the darkness.
Apparently I had not scored a hit, but the loud
reports of the weapon aroused the men sleeping in
the camp, and soon I was surrounded by a ring of
But there I stood on the rock-edge, looking out
across the desert in silence. Something in the long,
luminous eyes, something in the sinuous, flying shape
had spoken to me intimately, horribly.
Hassan es-Sugra, the headman, touched my arm,
and I knew that I must offer some explanation.
** Jackals,'^ I said shortly. And with no other
word I walked back to my tent.
The night passed without further event, and in
the morning we addressed ourselves to the work
with such a will that I saw, to my satisfaction, that
by noon of the following day the labor of clearing
the loose sand would be completed.
During the preparation of the evening meal I be-
came aware of a certain disquiet in the camp, and I
noted a disinclination on the part of the native labor-
ers to stray far from the tents. They hung together
in a group, and whilst individually they seemed to
avoid meeting my eye, collectively they watched me
in a furtive fashion.
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 283
A gang of Moslem workmen calls for delicate
handling, and I wondered if, inadvertently, I had
transgressed in some way their iron-bound code of
conduct. I called Hassan es-Sugra aside.
* * What ails the men V^ I asked him. ' ' Have they
some grievance f
Hassan spread his palms eloquently.
**If they have,'' he replied, *Hhey are secret about
it, and I am not in their confidence. Shall I thrash
three or four of them in order to learn the nature
of this grievance r'
**No thanks all the same," I said, laughing at
this characteristic proposal. **If they refuse to
work to-morrow, there will be time enough for you
to adopt those measures.*'
On this, the third night of my sojourn in the Holy
Valley by the Temple of Hatasu, I slept soundly
and uninterruptedly. I had been looking forward
with the keenest zest to the morrow's work, which
promised to bring me within sight of my goal, and
when Hassan came to awaken me, I leaped out of bed
Hassan es-Sugra, having performed his duty, did
not, as was his custom, retire ; he stood there, a tall,
angular figure, looking at me strangely.
**Welir' I said.
* * There is trouble, ' ' was his simple reply. * * Follow
me, Neville Effendi. ' '
Wondering greatly, I followed him across the
plateau and down the slope to the excavation. There
I pulled up short with a cry of amazement.
284 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
Condor's shaft was filled in to the very top, and
presented, to my astonished gaze, much the same
aspect that had greeted me upon my first arrivall
*'The men '* I began.
Hassan es-Sugra spread wide his palms. .
**Gone!'' he replied. ** Those Coptic dogs, those
eaters of carrion, have fled in the night.**
**And this'* — I pointed to the little mound of
broken granite and sand — *4s their work?**
*^So it would seem,** was the reply; and Hassan
sniffed his sublime contempt.
I stood looking bitterly at this destruction of my
toils. The strangeness of the thing at the moment
did not strike me, in my anger; I was only con-
cerned with the outrageous impudence of the miss-
ing workmen, and if I could have laid hands upon
one of them it had surely gone hard with him.
As for Hassan es-Sugra, I believe he would cheer-
fully have broken the necks of the entire gang. But
he was a man of resource.
**It is so newly filled in,** he said, *^that you and
I, in three days, or in four, can restore it to the
state it had reached when those nameless dogs, who
regularly prayed with their shoes on, those devourers
of pork, began their dirty work.**
His example was stimulating. I was not going
to be beaten, either.
After a hasty breakfast, the pair of us set to work
with pick and shovel and basket. We worked as
those slaves must have worked whose toil was di-
rected by the lash of the Pharaoh *s overseer. My
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 285
back acquired an almost permanent crook, and every
muscle in my body seemed to be on fire. Not even
in the midday heat did we slacken or stay our toils ;
and when dusk fell that night a great mound had
arisen beside Condor's shaft, and we had excavated
to a depth it had taken our gang double the time
When at last we threw down our tools in utter
exhaustion, I held out my hand to Hassan, and
wrung his brown fist enthusiastically. His eyes
sparkled as he met my glance.
** Neville Effendi,*' he said, **you are a true
Moslem ! ' '
And only the initiated can know how high was the
That night I slept the sleep of utter weariness,
yet it was not a dreamless sleep, or perhaps it was
not so deep as I supposed, for blazing cat-eyes en-
circled me in my dreams, and a constant feline
howling seemed to fill the night.
"When I awoke the sun was blazing down upon
the rock outside my tent, and, springing out of bed,
I perceived, with amazement, that the morning was
far advanced. Indeed, I could hear the distant
voices of the donkey-boys and other harbingers of
the coming tourists.
Why had Hassan es-Sugra not awakened me?
I stepped out of the tent and called him in a loud
voice. There was no reply. I ran across the plateau
to the edge of the hollow.
Condor's shaft had been reclosed to the topi
286 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
Language fails me to convey the wave of anger,
amazement, incredulity, which swept over me. I
looked across to the deserted camp and back to my
own tent ; I looked down at the mound, v/here but a
few hours before had been a pit, and seriously I
began to question whether I was mad or whether
madness had seized upon all who had been with me.
Then, pegged down upon the heap of broken stones,
I perceived, fluttering, a small piece of paper.
Dully I walked across and picked it up. Hassan,
a man of some education, clearly was the writer.
It was a pencil scrawl in doubtful Arabic, and, not
without difficulty, I deciphered it as follows :
' ' Fly, Neville Eff endi ! This is a haunted place ! ' '
Standing there by the mound, I tore the scrap of
paper into minute fragments, bitterly casting them
from me upon the ground. It was incredible; it
The man who had written that absurd message,
the man who had undone his own work, had the repu-
tation of being fearless and honorable. He had been
with me before a score of times, and had quelled
petty mutinies in the camp in a manner which marked
him a born overseer. I could not understand; I
could scarcely believe the evidence of my own senses.
What did I dof
I suppose there are some who would have aban-
doned the thing at once and for always, but I take
it that the national traits are strong within me. T
went over to the camp and prepared my own break-
fast ; then, shouldering pick and shovel, I went do^\Ti
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 287
into the valley and set to work. What ten men
could not do, what two men had failed to do, one
man was determined to do.
It was about half an hour after commencing my
toils, and when, I suppose, the surprise and rage
occasioned by the discovery had begun to wear off,
that I found myself making comparisons between
my own case and that of Condor. It became more
and more evident to me that events — ^mysterious
events — were repeating themselves.
The frightful happenings attendant upon Condor's
death were marshahng in my mind. The sun was
blazing down upon me, and distant voices could be
heard in the desert stillness. I knew that the plain
below was dotted with pleasure-seeking tourists, yet
nervous tremors shook me. Frankly, I dreaded the
coming of the night.
Well, tenacity or pugnacity conquered, and I
worked on until dusk. My supper despatched, I sat
down on my bed and toyed with the Browning.
I realized already that sleep, under existing con-
ditions, was impossible. I perceived that on the
morrow I must abandon my one-man enterprise,
pocket my pride, in a sense, and seek new assistants,
The fact was coming home to me conclusively
that a menace, real and not mythical, hung over
that valley. Although, in the morning sunlight and
filled with indignation, I had thought contemptu-
ously of Hassan es-Sugra, now, in the mysterious
violet dusk so conducive to calm consideration, I
288 TALES OF SECKET EGYPT
was forced to admit that he was at least as brave
a man as I. And he had fled ! What did that night
hold in keeping for me ?
I will tell you what occurred, and it is the only
explanation 1 have to give of why Condor *s shaft,
said to communicate with the real tomb of Hatasu,
to this day remains unopened.
There, on the edge of my bed, I sat far into the
night, not daring to close my eyes. But physical
weariness conquered in the end, and, although I have
no recollection of its coming, I must have succumbed
to sleep, since I remember — can never forget —a
repetition of the dream, or what I had assumed to b>
a dream, ^^f the night before.
A ring of blazing green eyes surrounded me. At
one point this ring was broken, and in a kind of
nightmare panic I leaped at that promise of safety,
and found myself outside the tent.
Lithe, slinking shapes hemmed me in — cat shapes,
ghoul shapes, veritable figures of the pit. And the
eyes, the shapes, although they were the eyes and
shapes of cats, sometimes changed elusively, and
became the wicked eyes and the sinuous, writhing
shapes of women. Always the ring was incomplete,
and always I retreated in the only direction by
which retreat was possible. I retreated from those
In this fashion I came at last to the shaft, and
there I saw the tools which I had left at the end of my
IN THE VALLEY OF THE SORCERESS 289
Looking around me, I saw also, with snch a pang
of horror as I cannot hope to convey to you, that
the ring of green eyes was now unbroken about me.
And it was closing in.
Nameless feline creatures were crowding silently
to the edge of the pit, some preparing to spring
down upon me where I stood. A voice seemed to
speak in my brain; it spoke of capitulation, telling
me to accept defeat, lest, resisting, my fate be the
fate of Condor.
Peals of shrill laughter rose upon the silence.
The laughter was mine.
Filling the night \\dth this hideous, hysterical mer-
riment, I was working feverishly with pick and with
shovel filling in the shaft.
The end? The end is that I awoke, in the morning,
lying, not on my bed, but outside on the plateau, my
hands torn and bleeding and every muscle in my body
throbbing agonisingly. Remembering my dream —
for even in that moment of awakening I thought I
had dreamed — I staggered across to the valley of the
Condor's shaft was reclosed to the top.
TBCERE are not so many Antereeyeh (story-
tellers) in Cairo now (said my acquaint-
ance, Hassan of the Scent Bazaar, staring,
reflectively, at two American ladies paying fabulous
prices for the goods of his mendacious neighbor on
the left). They have adopted other, and more lucra*
tive, professions; but in my father ^s time, it was an
For one thing, the stories which you call the
Arabian Nights are no longer recited, because they
are said to be unlucky. This has considerably re-
duced the story-teller's stock-in-trade; for unless a
man is blessed with much originality, he cannot well
refrain from using in his narratives some part of
the thousand and one tales.
To this day, however, there is in the city of Cairo
a tale-teller of much repute. With his tale-telling
he combines the profession of a barber; and like
the famous barber of the Arabian Nights bears the
nickname Es-Samit (the Silent). An old man is this
Es-Samit, who no more will know his ninetieth year,
of dark countenance, and white beard and eyebrows,
with small ears like the ears of a gazelle, and a long
nose like that of a camel, and a haughty aspect.
POMEGRANATE FLOWER 291
This barber enjoys every comfort in his declining
years by reason of his amusing manner, and because
his ridiculous stories and disclosures respecting his
isix brothers (for in all things he resembles, or
claims to resemble, his famous namesake) divert all
who hear them, causing him whose bosom is con-
tracted with woe to swoon with excessive laughter,
and filling the saddest heart with joy; such is the
absurd loquacity and impertinence of the barber
called Es-Samit, the Silent.
It chanced one day that I found myself at the
wedding festivities of a prosperous merchant dis-
tantly related to me; and for the entertainment of
his guests, this wealthy man, in addition to the usual
dances and songs, had engaged Es-Samit to divert
us with one of his untruthful stories. In order to
refresh the Anteree's mendacity, the host thus
addressed the barber —
**0 Es-Samit, thou silent one! it hath come to
my ears that in thine exceeding paucity of speech
thou hast omitted, hitherto, to relate the story of
thy seventh brother. Since thou hast a seventh
brother, let not thy love of silence (in thee even
greater than in thy famous ancestor) deprive us of
a knowledge of his depravity, but acquaint us with
his case. ' '
**0 Merchant Prince!'' replied the barber, **to
none other than thyself — so handsome, so liberal, and
of such excellent morality — ^would I break my vow,
to speak of that Wretched villain, that malevolent
mule, that vilest of the vile, my twin brother Ahzab."
292 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
My cousin, feigning astonishment at the maimer
of his speech, said —
**Thy twin brother, Es-Samit, was not, like
thee, a man of rectitude, of exalted mind, and of
**Alas!'' replied the barber, **he was a dog of
the most mongrel kind. My bosom is pierced when
I utter his accursed name ! At the hands of Ahzab,
my twin brother, I met with every indignity, and
with penalties of a most unfortunate description."
When the host heard this, he laughed exceedingly,
** Acquaint us, O Es-Samit, with his shamelesa
The barber, sighing as though his soul sought rest
from all earthly afflictions, proceeded as follows :
Ejiow, light of my eyes ! that my other brother,
Ahzab, was born in the city of Cairo, and his birth
was unattended by a darkening of the sun and other
unpleasant calamities only by reason of the fact
that / was born in the same hour I
My twin brother, Ahzab, was blessed with hand-
some stature, an elegant shape, a perfect figure, with
cheeks like roses, with eyebrows meeting above an
aquiline nose brightly shining. In short, this shame
of my mother was endowed with all those perfections
which Allah (whose name be exalted) had also be-
stowed upon me; but his heart was the heart of a
serpent, and he lacked the nobility of mind which
POMEGRANATE FLOWEB 293
thou hast observed in thy servant, Paragon of
"When we were yet in the bloom and blossom of
handsome youth, a dispute arose between us, and
for many moons I saw not Ahzab, but pursued my
occupation as a barber and teller of wonderful stories
in a distant part of the city. In this way it befell
that I knew of his state only by report, until one
day as I sat before my shop observing if the ascen-
dent of the hour were favorable to one who waited
to be shaved, there came to me a negro most hand-
somely dressed, who said:
**My Master, Ahzab the Merchant, desires that
you repair as soon as possible to his magazine. He
hath urgent need of thee. ' '
Upon hearing these words, and observing the rich-
ness of the negro's apparel, I perceived that those
reports which had come to me, respecting Ahzab 's
wealth, were no more than true; and I spoke thus
** Within the vilest heart may bloom the flower of
brotherly affection. Ahzab desires to share with
me, the most enlightened of his family, this good
fortune which hath befallen him."
Accordingly, I shut up my shop, dismissing the
one who waited to be shaved, and followed the black
to the Khan Khalil, where were the shops of the
wealthy silk merchants. My brother received me
affectionately, embracing me and saying :
'*0 Es-Samit, ever have I loved thee, Lo ! Thou
growest more like myself each year. Save that thou
294 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
art more dignified and noble. Enter into this private
apartment with me, for it is important that no one
shall see thee/'
Much surprised at his words, I followed him to an
elegant apartment above the shop, and there he *
ordered the servants to roast a lamb and to bring '
to us fruit and wine; and while we thus pleasantly
employed ourselves, he unfolded to me his case.
**Know, my brother, that I have accumulated
great wealth; and this I have done by observing
those wise precepts of conduct laid down by thee.
By the charm of my speech, which I have fashioned
upon thine, and the elegance of my manner, in which
I have, though poorly, imitated thine own, and by
the dignity and the modesty of my conduct, I have
endeared all hearts and am esteemed above all the
other merchants in Cairo.
**It is necessary that I repair to Damascus, and
during my absence I wish nothing better than that
thou shouldst take my place here. This will be
favorable to both of us; for I will reward thy ser-
vices with ^xe hundred piastres and an interest in
my affairs, and thou wilt pass for me; for all will
say, *Lo ! Ahzab the Merchant waxes more handsome
each day; such is the benign influence of righteous
prosperity and conscious rectitude!' My affairs
stand thus and thus, and my steward, who will be
in our confidences, will acquaint thee with all matters
necessary. Thou wilt wear my costly garments, and
sit in my shop. Each evening thou wilt secretly
repair to thine own abode.'*
POMEGRANATE FLOWER 295
Upon hearing those words, my bosom swelled with
joy; for I observed that Ahzab had not failed to
perceive my exalted qualities. We sat far into the
night in conversation respecting our plans; and on
the following day, Ahzab having departed secretly
for Damascus, I repaired to his shop, as arranged,
and took my seat there.
But the number of the persons who saluted me,
and by the manner of their speech, I perceived, more
and more, the great prosperity of my brother ; and
being of a thoughtful mind, I passed the days very
pleasantly in contemplation of my good fortune.
Upon the fourth day after the departure of my
brother, as I sat in his shop, there came past a
damsel accompanied by female attendants. This
damsel was riding upon a mule with a richly em-
broidered saddle, with stirrups of gold, and she was
covered with an izar of exquisite fabric ; and about
her slender waist was a girdle of gold-embroidered
-silk. I was stricken speechless with the beauty and
elegance of her form; and when she alighted and
came into the shop, the odors of sweet perfumes
were diffused from her, and she captivated my rea-
son by her loveliness.
Seating herself beside me, she raised her izar, and
I beheld her black eyes. And they surpassed in
beauty the eyes of all human beings, and were like
the eyes of the gazelle. She had a mouth like the
Seal of Suleyman, and hair blacker than the night
of affliction; a forehead like the new moon of
Ramadan, and cheeks like anemones, with lips
296 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
fresher than rose petals, teeth like pearls from the
sea of distraction, and a neck surpassing in white-
ness molten silver, above a form that pnt to shame
the willow branch.
She spoke to me, saying:
* * Ahzab ! I have returned as I promised thee ! ' *
At the sound of her voice, by Allah (whose name
be exalted!) I was entangled in the snare of her
love ; fire was burning up my heart on her account ;
a consuming flame increased within my bosom, and
my reason was drowned in the sea of my desire.
Perceiving my state, she quickly lowered her veil
in pretended displeasure, and desired to look at
some pieces of silk. While she thus employed her-
self, she surpassed the branches in the beauty of
her bending motions, and my eyes could not remove
themselves from her. I thus communed with my-
*^0 Es-Samit, thou didst contract with thy brother
to do this and that, and to render unto him a proper
account of thy dealings. But though he hath made
thee no mention of his affair with this damsel — it is
important that thou conductest this matter as he
would have done, so that he cannot reproach thee
vdih negligence!** For I was ever a just as well
as a discreet and silent man,
Ac<5ordingly I spoke as follows :
**0 my mistress, who art the most lovely person
God has created, rend not my heart with thy dis-
pleasure, but take pity upon me. Know that love
is difficult, and the concealment of it melteth iron
POMEGRANATE FLOWER 297
and occasioneth disease and infirmity. Thou hast
returned as thou didst promise ; therefore I conjure
thee, conceal not thy face from thy slave I*'
The damsel thereupon raised her head and put
aside her veil, casting a glance upon me and looked
sideways at the attendants, and placed one finger
upon her lips ; so that I knew her to be as discreet
as she was lovely. She laughed in my face, and said :
**I will take this piece of embroidered silk that
I have chosen. What is the price T'
And I answered;
*'One hundred piasters; but I pray thee let it
be thine, and a gift from Ahzab!*'
Upon this, she looked into my eyes and the sight
of her face drew from me a thousand sighs, and took
the silk, saying :
**0 my master, leave me not desolate!"
So she departed, while I continued sitting in the
market-street until past the hour of afternoon
prayer, with disturbed mind enslaved by her beauty
and loveliness. I returned to my house and supper
was placed before me, but reflecting upon the damsel,
I could eat nothing. I laid myself down to rest,
but passed the whole night sleepless, communing
with myself how I could best carry out this affair
and obtain possession of the damsel ... for my
Scarcely had daybreak appeared when I arose
and repaired to the market-place and put on a suit
298 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
of my brother's clothing, richer and more magnifi-
cent than that I had worn the day before ; and having
drunk a cup of wine, I sat in the shop. But all that
day she came not, nor the next, but upon the third
day she came again, attended only by one attendant,
and she saluted me and said in a speech never sur-
passed in softness and sweetness :
* ^ my master, reproach me not that I thus reveal
the interest I have in thee, but I could not speak to
thee when my women were in hearing ; and this one
is in my confidence. I have told thee that my father
will never give me to thee because of my rank, but
thou hast wounded my heart, and more and more do
I love thee each day — for each day thou growest
more beautiful and elegant. Forever I must ba
desolate. Alas ! I have placed thy letter in the box
thou didst give me, and no day passes that it is not
wet with my tears. Farewell ! my beloved ! ' '
On hearing this, my love and passion grew so
violent that I almost became insensible. The damsel
rose to leave the shop, and the one who was with her
spoke softly in her ear; but she shook her head>
expressing displeasure, and went away.
When I perceived that indeed she was gone, verily
the tears descended upon my cheek like rain, and my
soul had all but departed. My heart clung to her—
I followed in the direction of her steps, through the
market-place, and lo! the attendant came running
back to me, and said :
**Here is the message of my mistress : *Know that
my love is greater than thine, and on Friday next
POMEGRANATE FLOWEB 299
my servant will come to thee and tell thee how thou
mayest see me for a short interview before my
father comes back from prayers. ' ' '
When I heard these words of the girl, the anguish
of my heart ceased, and I was intoxicated with love
and rapture, and in my joy and longing, I omitted
to ask the girl the abode of her mistress— neither
did I know the name of my beloved; but reflecting
upon these matters, I returned to my brother's shop,
and sat there until late, and then I repaired secretly
to my abode.
I paused in a quiet street, and seated myself upon
a mastabah to scent the coolness of the air, and to
abandon myself to exquisite reflections.
But no sooner had I thus seated myself than a
negro of gigantic stature, and most hideous aspect,
suddenly appeared from the shadow of a door, and
threw himself upon me, exclaiming :
*'This is thine end, as it was written, Ahzab the
Merchant ! * '
By Allah! (whose name be exalted) I thought it
was even as he said ; and none but myself had fallen
into sudden dissolution, but that everything slippery
is not a pancake, and the jar that is struck may yet
So it befell that by great good fortune and by the
exercise of my agility and intelligence, I tripped
the negro and his head came in contact with the
mastabah, and before he could recover himself, I
held to his ebony throat the blade of a razor which,
by the mercy of God, and because it was a custom
300 TALES OF SEGEET EGYPT
of my profession, I carried in my kamar.
**0 thou dogV^ I exclaimed, ** prepare to depart
to that ntter darkness and perdition that awaits
assassins ! For assuredly I am about to slay thee !*'
But he humbled himself to the ground before me,
and embraced my feet, crying:
**Have mercy, my master! I but obeyed the
commands ! ' '
*'0f whom, thou vile and unnamable vermin?*'
T asked of him.
*'0f whom else but Abu-el-Hassan, the son of the
Kadi! For hath he not revealed to thee that for
what has passed with Jullanar (Pomegranate
Flower), the daughter of the Wall, he will slay
*^He hath revealed this to me!'* I asked of him,
astonished at his words.
And he replied: '^Thou knowest, master, it was
6y my hand that the message was borne."
Whereupon I praised Allah (whose name be ex-
alted) and spurned the slave with my foot, saying:
*^ Depart, thou black son of filth, and report
that I am dead. I give thee thy wretched life;
depart ! * *
But when he had gone, I again lifted up my voice
in thanksgiving. And having come to my abode,
I performed the preparatory ablution, and recited
the prayer of night-fall; after which I recited the
chapters **Ya-Sin" (The Cow) and **Two Preventa-
tives." For I perceived that this was the true pur-
port of my brother's absence, and that in his love
POMEGRANATE FLOWER 301
and affection he had resigned to me this affair, well
knowing that I should perish !
It was by the mercy of Allah, the Compassionate,
the Merciful, that my case was not as he had fore-
seen. The damsel called Jullanar, daughter of the
Wall, was famed from Cairo to the uttermost islands
of China for her elegance and loveliness, and I knew
that my beloved could be none other than she, and
that Abu-el-Hassan, son of the Kadi, could be none
other than the betrothed chosen of her father the
I slept not that night, but passed the hours until
sunrise reflecting upon this matter, and upon the
dangers which awaited my father's handsome son
on Friday. And I went not to the market on the
next day, but sent a message to my brother's
steward saying that I was smitten with sickness and
enjoining him to acquaint the girl, who presently
would come, where I was to be found.
Thus it befell that at noon on Friday the same
girl that had been with Jullanar came to me, sent
thither from the shop of Ahzab by the steward,
**0 my master, answer the sumons of my mistress.
This is the plan that I have proposed to her: Con-
ceal thyself within one of the large chests that are
in thy shop, and hire a porter to carry thee to the
house of the Wall. I will cause the bowwab to admit
the chest to the apartment of the Lady Jullanar.
She doth trust her honor to thy discretion, by reason
I of her love for thee, and because she w/jl die if she
302 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
see thee not to bid thee farewell. I will arrange
for thee to be secretly conveyed from the house, ere
the Wall returns.'^
And at her words I was like to have swooned with
ecstasy; and I forgot, in the transport of love and
delight, the black assassin and the threatened venge-
ance of Abu-el-Hassan. I set at naught my fears at
trusting my father 's favorite son mthin the walls of
the Wall's house. I thought only of Jullanar of the
slender waist and heavy hips, of the dewy lips, more
intoxicating than wine, and the eyes of my beloved
like wells of temptation to swallow up the souls of
I shaved and went to the bath, and repaired to
the shop of Ahzab. My brother's steward was not
there, whereat I rejoiced, and arrayed myself in the
most splendid suit that I could find, and having
perfumed myself with essences and sweet scents, I
summoned a boy and said:
**Go thou and bring here a porter. Order him to
carry yon large chest to the house of the Wali, near
the Mosque of Ibn-Mizheh, and ask for the lady
Jullanar who hath purchased this box and a number
of things which are in it. See that he be a strong
man, for the box is very hea\y. ' '
The boy replied. *^0n the head,'' and departed
on his errand.
Thereupon I commended my soul to Allah, and
entered the box, closing the lid upon me. Scarcely
had I concealed myself, when the porter entered and
lifted the chest. The boy assisted him to take it upon
POMEGEANATE FLOWER 303
his back, and he bore it out into the market-street
'*Now by the beard of the Prophet ( on whom be
peace),'' I exclaimed to myself, *4t is well that I am
named Es-Samit, the Silent ; for had it been other-
wise, I mnst have lifted up my voice against this
son of perdition who carries me with my soles raised
The porter conveyed me for some distance, pant-
ing beneath the weight of the box, and, presently,
coming to a mastabah, dropped one end of the box
^pon it, whilst he rested himself.
**Now as Allah is great, and Mohammed his only
prophet," I said in my beard, **I am fortunate in
that I have acquired a paucity of diction. There
is no other in Cairo, but the joy of my mother, that
could refrain from speech when dropped upon his
^kull on a stone bench ! "
After a while, the porter raised the chest again,
and resumed his journey, presently coming to the
house of the Wall, and dropping the box into the
** Allah be praised!" I said. **For if this porter,
whose name be accursed, did but carry me a quinary
further, my silence would become even more sur-
prising than it is; for my affair would finish, and
I should speak no more to any man!"
The howwab now cried out :
**What is in this chest?"
** Purchases of the lady Jullanar," said the girl,
whom I recognized by her voice. * * Permit the porter
to carry it to her apartments."
304 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
**I must obey the orders of the Wali my master,"
replied the door-keeper. * * The box must be opened. ' '
I was bereft of the power to control myself, and
seized with a colic from excess of fear; I almost
died from the violent spasms of my limbs. -
**0 Es-Samitl^' I said, ''this is the reward of
him whom love leads to the house of the Wali ! ' '
I felt certain that my destruction approached.
The intoxication of love now ceased in me, and re-
flection came in its place. I repented of what I had
done, and prayed a happy solution of my dangerous
Whether as a result of my prayers, I know not,
but some arrangement was come to, and the porter
once more raised the chest, and, striking my head
upon the end of it at each step, bore me up to the
apartments of Jullanar, which I thus entered feet
He deposited the box, lid downward, upon the
soft mattress of a dtwan, so that I found myself upon
all fours, like a mule with my face between my hands !
Ere I could break my habitual silence, he lifted some
heavy piece of furniture — I know not what — and
placed it on top of the box !
A voice sweeter than the songs of the Daood
** Slave! what art thou doing!"
**I am thy slave!" spoke another voice, at the
accursed sound whereof I almost died of spleen.
^*Knowest thou me not, my beloved? I have devised
a new stratagem and come to thee in the guise of a
POMEGRANATE FLOWER 305
porter I But lo ! beneath my uncomely garments, I
am Ahzab, thy lover!''
As a man who sleeps ill after a protracted feast^
I heard her answer, saying :
**Is it true thou hast come to me, or is this a
''Verily, it is true!" answered the accursed, the
vile, the unspeakable Ahzab, my brother — for it was
he. ''From the time when I first saw thee, neither
I leep hath been sweet to me, nor hath wine possessed
the slightest flavor! I have come to thee thus, frag-
rant bloom of the pomegranate, because I would not
have thee see me in a posture so undignified as that
of one crouched in a box ! So that thy people might
be compelled to give me access to thine apartments,
I have put a mendicant in my place, rendering the
And she said, "Thou art welcome !" and embraced
By Allah (whose name be exalted), I gnawed my
beard until I choked!
"Thou art changed, beloved!" she said to him;
"thou art always beautiful, but to-day thou seemest
less rosy-cheeked to mine eyes!"
The accursed Ahzab, like an enraged mule, kicked
the box wherein I dissolved in flames of wrath.
"I am burnt up with love and longing for thee!"
he replied "0 my love! how beautiful thou art!"
306 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
Whereat my command of silence forsook me ! As
Allah is the one god, and Mohammed his only Pro-
phet, I became as one possessed of a devil!
*^Robber!'- I cried; and my words lost them
selves within the box. ** Cheat! accursed disgrace
of my father ! infamy of my race ! dog ! unut-
Jullanar cried out in fear, but my accursed brother
took her in his bosom, soothing her with soft words.
**Fear not, my beloved!'' he said. *^I gave the
mendicant wine that his heart might warm to his
lowly task, but I fear he has become intoxicated!"
* * thou liar ! " I cried. * ^ malevolent scoundrel I
son of a disease!" And with all my strength I
sought to raise the weight that bore me down; but
to no purpose.
**Know, my beloved," continued my thrice-
accursed brother, *^what I have suffered on thy
account. But three days since I was attacked by
four gigantic negro assassins despatched by Abu-el-
Hassan to slay me ! But I vanquished them, killing
one and maiming a second, whilst the others escaped
and ran back to their wretched master. ' '
**0 unutterable liar!" I groaned. For I was near
to hastening my predestined end both from suffo-
cation and consuming rage. **Thou didst fly, thou
jackal ! from that peril, and reapest the fruits of my
courage and dexerity! 0, mud! 0, stench!"
^^Lest he should despatch a number too great for
me to combat, I have lurked in hiding, delight of
souls! in a most filthy hovel belonging to a barber!"
POMEGRANATE FLOWER 307
**May thy tongue turn into a scorpion and bite
thee ! * ' I cried. * * My abode is as clean as the palace
of the Khedive ! Thou hast never entered it, thou
gnat's eggl Thou hast hidden in I know not what
hole, like the uiiclean insect thou art, until thy
steward (may his beard grow backward and smother
him!) informed thee of this I Allah! (to whom
be ascribed all might and glory) give me strength
to move this accursed box that I may crush him ! ' '
Scarce had I uttered the last word, when a girl
came running into the apartment, crying: **Fly, my
master ! my mistress ! The Wall ! the Walt ! ' '
Upon hearing these words, my rage departed from
me and in its place came excessive fear. My breath
left my body, and my heart ceased to beat.
**He that falleth in the dirt be trodden on by
camels, '* I reflected. **It is not enough, Es-Samit,
that thou hast suffered the attack of the assassin;
that thou hast all but died of fear at the door of the
Wall's house; that thou hast been torn from the
arms of the loveliest creature God hath created ; thou
are destined, now, most unfortunate of men, to be
detected by the Wall in his daughter's apartments,
concealed in a box!"
And I pronounced the TaJcbir, crying, '*0 Allah!
thy ways are inscrutable!"
^^Fly, my beloved!" cried Jullanar to Ahzab.
'*My women will conceal thee!" WTierewith she
swooned and fell upon the floor senseless.
** Quick! follow me closely, O my master!" cried
the girl, and I heard my perfidious brother depart
308 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
from the room by one door, as the Wall entered by
^»Ah!'' cried the Wali, clapping his hands.
'* Slaves! what is this!
And people came running to his command ;. some
carrying out the lady JuUanar to her sleeping apart-
ment, and sprinkling rose-water upon her, and some
^'What is in this box upon the diwanf' demanded
the Wali. ' ' Bring it hither and open it ! * '
At that I knew that I was lost, and my soul as good
as departed, and I bade farewell to life and invoked
Mohammed (whom may God preserve) to intercede
for me that I might die an easy death.
The chest was dragged into the middle of the floor
and thrown open.
' ' Name of my mother ! ' ' exclaimed the Wali. * * It
is Ahzab the ]\Ierchant! It is the villain who hath
presumed to make love to my daughter ! Allah !
my daughter hath disgraced me ! By the beard of
the Prophet, I can no more hold up my head among
And he slapped his face and plucked his beard,
and fell insensible upon the floor. As he did so, I
leaped from the box and would have escaped, but
two blacks seized me ; and the noise, or the refresh-
ing quality of the rose-water with which the women
were sprinkling him, revived the Wali, who re-
covered, fixing upon me a terrible gaze.
•*0 thou dog!'' he said; *Hhou who hast wrought
my disgrace! As thou didst enter my house in
POMEGRANATE FLOWER 309
yonder box, in yonder box shalt thou quit the world !
Cast him back again, fasten the box with ropes, and
throw it into the Nile at nightfall!*'
Now were my powers of silence most snrprisingly
displayed. For I spoke no word, but dumb as a
tongueless man, I allowed myself to be knocked back-
ward into the box. The lid closed upon me, ropes
bound about the box, and the seal of the Wali affixed
to it. Negroes carried it out, and threw it into some
cellar to await nightfall.
*'0 Es-Samit!'' I said, **this is the end that was
appointed to thy father's wisest son I To this pass
thy silence and wisdom have brought thee I Allah
(to whom be all glory), grant that one of the fishes
that eat me in the Nile shall be served up to Ahzab,
my twin brother, and choke himl'*
And then my thoughts turned to JuUanar, and I
sighed and groaned; and the torments I suffered
through lying drawn up in the box were delights to
the agonies that my reflections respecting her case
occasioned in me ; so that, with the excess of my woe
and misery, I became insensible. How long I re-
mained so T know not, but I was awakened by a
knocking at the lid of the box, and the voice of the
Wali spoke, saying :
** Prepare to die, O wretch! for my servants are
about to convey thee to the river and cast thee in!
310 TALES OF SECRET EGYPT
Thou dog! who didst presume to raise thine eyes
to my daughter! — ^know that this is the reward of
such malefactors; for assuredly if thou escapest
alive, thou shalt wed Jullanar!^'
Whereat he laughed until he almost swooned and
kicked the box until I thought he had burst it.
Blacks raised me, and I was borne do^vn a long flight
of steps and onward in I know not what direction.
**From here?" said one of them, and through a
crack in the lid, I saw the light of a torch, and the
whispering of the river came to my ears.
**Yes!" replied another.
And I commended my soul to Allah as ths box
was swung to and fro and hurled through the air.
With a sound in my ears as of the shrieking of teu
thousand efreets, I was plunged into the water !
Far under the surface I went and knew all the
agonies of dissolution; but the box was strongly
and cunningly made and rose again; then it began
to fill and sink once more, and again I tasted of the
final pangs. Throughout all this time, a strong
current was bearing the box along, and presently,
as, for the fiftieth occasion, I was seeking to die and
to end my misery, I heard voices.
The most miserable life is sweet to him who feels
it slipping from his grasp, and I summoned sufficient
strength to raise a feeble cry.
*^0 Allah!" I cried, ^4f it be thy will, grant thai
these persons whose voices I hear take pity upon my
unfortunate condition, and draw me forth."
Even as I spoke, something stayed the onward
POMEGRANATE FLOWER 311
progress of the box. It was a fisherman's net!
And the fishermen began to draw me into the boat,
I praising Allah the while.
But when they had the box upon the edge of the
boat, and heard my voice proceeding from within,
and saw the Wall's seal upon the lid — *^By the beard
of the Prophet ! ' ' cried one, * * this is some evil ginn
or magician whom the Wall hath imprisoned in this
chest! Allah avert the omen! Cast him back,
Alas ! I could find no words wherewith to entreat
them to take pity; never had paucity of speech
served me so ill! A great groan issued from my
bossom as I was consigned again to the Nile !
Allah is great, and it was not written that I should
perish in that manner. For another current now
seized upon the box, and just as I was on the point
of dissolution, cast it upon a projecting bank, where
it was perceived by a band of four robbers, who
derived a livelihood from plundering such vessels
as lay unprotected in the river.
These waded out and dragged the box ashore. I
was too near my end to have spoken had I desired
to speak, but from my unfortunate adventure with
the fishermen, I had learned that silence was wisdom,
now as always. Thus I lay in the box like a dog that
has been all but drowned, and listened to the words
of my rescuers.
These were arguing respecting the contents and
value of the box, one holding this opinion and another
that. One, who seemed to be their leader, was about
312 TALES OF SECRET EGfYPT
to unfasten the ropes, but another claimed that this
was his due. So, from angry words, they came to
blows, and by the grace of God (whose name be ex-
alted) they drew their knives, and three of the four
were slain. The fourth removed the ropes and
opened the box, thinking to enjoy, alone, the treas-
ures which he supposed it to contain.
Whereupon I uprose and looked up to where
Canopus shone, and said :
** There is no God but God! Praise be to Allah
who has preserved me from an unfortunate and un-
At that, the robber, with wild cries of fear, turned
and ran, and I saw him no more. Such, bountiful
patron, is the disgraceful story of the dog Ahzab,
my seventh and twin broteher. But all that which
I endured happened by Fate and Destiny, and from
that which is written there is no escape nor flight
Our worthy host (concluded Hassan) laughed
heartily at this story, saying :
**0 Es-Samit, it is evident to me that thy paucity
of speech alone preserved thee from drowning ! But
acquaint us, I beg, with the fate of thy dog of a
brother, and of thy beautiful Pomegranate Flower."
*'0 glory of beholders!'* replied the barber, **by
the mouth of the girl who was in Jullanar's confi-
dence — Ahzab, that shame of mules, learned, whilst
in hiding, how the Wall had said in the presence of
many witnesses: 'Assuredly if thou escapest alive,
thou shalt wed Jullanar.' "
POMEGEANATE FLOWER 313
''TeUest thou me that he had the effrontery to de-
mand the fulfihnent of a pledge so spoken, Es-
^ "Alas!'' replied the barber, with tears pouring
like rain down the wrinkles of his aged cheek, ''he
Kved with her the most joyous, and most agreeable,
and most comfortable, and most pleasant life until
they were visited by the terminator of deKghts, and
tae separator of companions I'*